Chorus of operatic joy hails soapbox champion


The rapturous shrieking of schoolgirls pierced the lavish ballroom of Farmleigh House when the 2012 Soapbox Champion was announced.

Given the shrill cacophony you would swear someone had told the girls from Gorey Community School that One Direction was about to play an impromptu set.

Instead they were applauding fellow pupil Michael Dwyer, who had worked his way through regional public speaking contests to reach yesterday’s grand final.

He found himself up against tough competition but did enough to see off the other seven finalists.

His three-minute address was a surgical refutation of the motion, “youth is wasted on the young”. It concluded with the salutary message: “Youth is not wasted on the young, but life is wasted when we live in peevish regret of the past and are blind to the joys of the now.”

The winner later said: “I put an awful lot of work into it. I went into details that youth don’t have any powers . . . their opinions don’t matter, so that’s what youth is about – that we can experience the likes of hurling, football, reading, learning music, preparing for the future.”

There is a hint of Seamus Heaney about the 16-year-old, whose interests span sport and academia; he plays hurling for Naomh Éanna in Co Wexford but admits he is “better at the pen now than the hurl”.

His father, Patrick, beamed as his son collected the €1,000 prize, which he later said will probably be spent “on something cheap that goes on four wheels”.

“I'm thrilled with him,” said his father. “He’s a great kid ... and he’s into that public speaking. He’s tireless; he works tirelessly at it.”