Lessons of The Troubles discussed in Irish Times Debate semi-final

Winners go through to next month’s grand final

Students contested the motion that “Ireland’s youth have forgotten the lessons of The Troubles” at the last semi-final of The Irish Times Debate at the Royal Irish Academy on Friday evening.

Contestants from DCU, King’s Inns, the Solicitors’ Apprentice Debating Society of Ireland (Sadsi), UCD and UCC were among those competing for a place in next month’s grand final.

The debate winners were UCD LawSoc’s Sara Rafter and Laura Campion and individual speaker Theo McDonald of DCU Debating Society.

They go through to the final which takes place on Friday, February 17th, in partnership with EU50. It will be chaired by former secretary-general of the European Commission Catherine Day.


The motion up for debate will be that “it is time for the citizens of the European Union to directly and democratically elect the president of the European Commission”.

Friday’s semi-final debate, chaired by journalist and writer Emma DeSouza, was sponsored by the Arins project (Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South), a joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Keogh-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at Notre Dame.

The motion for the semi-final was that “this house believes that Ireland’s youth have forgotten the lessons of The Troubles”.

Among the contestants at the semi-final were John Brosnan and Neasa Bissett of DCU Debating Society; Hugh Hogan and Senan Crawford of King’s Inns; Úna O’Grady of Sadsi ; Deborah Obarisiagbon of UCD’s Law Society; David Leahy and Fearghal Desmond of UCC’s Philosophical Society; Sara Rafter and Laura Campion of UCD’s Law Society; Darragh Walsh of UCC’s Philosophical Society; and Theo McDonald of DCU Debating Society.

Those in favour of the motion argued that the lack of emphasis on The Troubles in the history curriculum in schools, and the singing of controversial republican songs, were signs that young people were disconnected from the reality of what happened.

Those against argued that young people, in rejecting violence, are living out the lessons from years of violence, and that support for Sinn Féin has only grown since they embraced peace.

The judges for the semi-final included former Irish Times Debate contestants and winners Janine Ryan, Kevin Brennan and Aodhán Peelo, along with Etain Tannam, associate professor, International Peace Studies, TCD, and Carl O’Brien, Education Editor, The Irish Times.

The line-up for the grand final includes UCD’s L&H‘s Owen O’Grady and Rob Fitzpatrick; MTU’s Oliver McKenna; Adrianne Ward and Jack Cummins of the UCD L&H; Liam Boyce of University of Galway Lit and Deb; Dermot Hamill of Queens University Belfast’s Literary & Scientific Society; Gavin Dowd and Ailbhe Noonan from Sadsi.

The longest running third-level debating competition, The Irish Times Debate is in its 63rd year.

Previous winners include broadcaster Marian Finucane, comedian Dara Ó Briain, writer Gerry Stembridge and the late Adrian Hardiman.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent