An Irish Times poll last month showed that the Southern public have an emotional attachment to the Tricolour and Amhrán na bhFiann. Almost half (47 per cent and 48 per cent respectively) say that losing either or both would make them less likely to vote for a united Ireland.
The thorny subject of the anthem and its place in a united Ireland, were that ever to come about, exercised the speakers at the second semi-final of the annual Irish Times Debate on Friday at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin.
The debates are sponsored by the Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South (Arins project) and the themes this year are on the prospect of Irish unity and what a united Ireland might look like.
Eleven speakers spoke for and against the proposition that “this house believes that to achieve a united Ireland Amhrán na bhFiann would have to go”. The speakers were from UCD L & , UCD LawSoc, Maynooth L & , the Solicitors’ Apprentice Debating Society of Ireland (Sadsi), the Munster Technological University (MTU) and UCC Philosoph.
Those who were against the removal of the anthem stated that it was important symbolically, removing it would be unlikely to be reciprocated in any way and would not persuade unionists to vote for a united Ireland.
Those in favour of its removal believed it would be a significant gesture and a realisation that a united Ireland would not simply be a case of the Republic subsuming the North but a new state.
UCD’s L & ’s Owen O’Grady and Rob Fitzpatrick made it through to the team competition. They spoke for the proposition, as did MTU’s Oliver McKenna, who described himself as a Luke Kelly without the singing voice. He made it through to the individual final.
Friday’s debate was chaired by Patrick Geoghegan, professor in modern history at Trinity College Dublin. The judging panel included Conor White (team winner 2022), Ross Merriman (team winner 2022), Lucy Murphy (convenor, 2019), Rory Montgomery, former permanent representative to the European Union and ambassador to France, and Bernice Harrison, Irish Times journalist and co-host of In the News podcast.
The remaining semi-finals are due to take place on January 27th and February 3rd.
Motions due to be debated at the other semi-finals include whether unity would threaten the economic interests of the island, and whether young people have “forgotten the lessons of the Troubles”.
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.
Members of the public can attend the debates, with tickets available to book free of charge at: irishtimes.com/events