The Irish Times Debate at 60: How changing topics reflected the ages

For six decades, participants in the annual event have argued burning issues of the day

Team winner Hugh Guidera from TCD Phil during the Irish Times Debate Final in 2015 held at Maynooth University. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Team winner Hugh Guidera from TCD Phil during the Irish Times Debate Final in 2015 held at Maynooth University. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

1960

“That this house regrets the divergence of the sciences from the humanities in the modern university.”

Team winner: Charles Lysaght and Aidan Browne (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Neville Keery (TCD Hist)

1961

Motion unknown

Team winner: Hallam Johnston and Jack Daniels (TCD Phil)
Individual winner: Peter Donnelly (UCD L&H)

1962

“That people have the right to be wrong”

Team winner: John Murtagh and Michael Bowes Egan (QUB)
Individual winner: Ian Blake (TCD Hist)

1963

“That the lights are going out in Europe”

Team winner: Patrick Cosgrave and Anthony Clare (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Desmond King (RCSI)

1964

“That Ireland has nothing to offer the world”

Team winner: Patrick Cosgrave and Anthony Clare (UCD L&H)
Individual Terry McMahon (King’s Inns)

1965

“That Ireland’s need is socialism”

Team winner: David McConnell and Cian Ó hÉigeartaigh (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Eamonn McCann (QUB)

1966

“That this house would rather live in any age other than its own”

Team winner: David McConnell and Cian Ó hÉigeartaigh (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Esmond Smyth (UCD L&H)

1967

Team winner: Donnchadh Ó Corráin and Anthony J Adolph (UCC Philosoph)
Individual winner: Kevin O’Higgins (King’s Inns)

Marian Finucane, of the College of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin, taking part in The Irish Times debating competition in 1968. Photograph: Tommy Collins
Marian Finucane, of the College of Technology, Bolton Street, Dublin, taking part in The Irish Times debating competition in 1968. Photograph: Tommy Collins

1968

“This house would retain PR”

Team winner: Roddy Buckley and Dermot Gleeson (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Henry Kelly (UCD L&H)

1969

“That domination by religious denominations over the legislative processes of a society is a barrier to social progress”

Team winner: Brendan Keenan and Derek Davis (QUB)
Individual winner: Anthony J Adolph (UCC Philosoph)

Michael McInerney presenting the trophy to the winning L & H UCD team, Neal Clarke (left) and Donal O’Riain at the Irish Times debate in 1970. Second from right is the USI debating organiser Roderick Buckley. Photograph: Tommy Collins/The Irish Times
Michael McInerney presenting the trophy to the winning L & H UCD team, Neal Clarke (left) and Donal O’Riain at the Irish Times debate in 1970. Second from right is the USI debating organiser Roderick Buckley. Photograph: Tommy Collins/The Irish Times

1970

“That western democracy has failed”

Team winner: Neal Clarke and Donal O’Riain (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Adrian Hardiman (UCD L&H)

1971

“That politics is an honourable profession”

Team winner: Donnell Deeny and Gregory Murphy (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Marian Finucane (Bolton Street)

1972

“That this house would reject a united Ireland brought about by violence”

Team winner: Donnell Deeny and Frank Bannister (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Donnell Deeny (TCD Hist)

1973

Motion unknown

Team winner: Billy McCrory and Jimmy Hughes (QUB)
Individual winner: Adrian Hardiman (UCD L&H)

1974

“That the politicians have betrayed the people”

Team winner: David O’Sullivan and James Connolly (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Alex Lowry (NUU)

1975

“That western democracy cannot right the growing threat of Communism”

Team winner: Michael Hughes and Kevin Cahill (NUU)
Individual winner: Brian Curtin (King’s Inns)

1976

Motion unknown

Team winner: Paul Gill and Gerry Danaher (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Deirdre Murphy (Maynooth)

1977

“Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori”

Team winner: Pat Hennessy and Gerry Maher (Maynooth)
Individual winner: Patrick Healy (UCD L&H)

1978

“That Ireland is dancing at the crossroads”

Team winner: Conor Gearty and Donal O’Donnell (UCD Law Soc)
Individual winner: Turlough O’Donnell (King’s Inns)

1979

“That talking ballot boxes are no compensation for the loss of national identity”

Team winner: Conor Gearty and John O’Donnell (UCD Law Soc)
Individual winner: Maurice Biggar (UCD L&H)

Eugene McCague (left) and Maurice Biggar, of the Literary & Historical Society, UCD, winners of The Irish Times debating competition in 1980. Photograph: Peter Thursfield
Eugene McCague (left) and Maurice Biggar, of the Literary & Historical Society, UCD, winners of The Irish Times debating competition in 1980. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

1980

“That Ireland needs an Ayatollah”

Team winner: Maurice Biggar and Eugene McCague (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Brian Havel (King’s Inns)

1981

“That the two nation theory is a cultural myth”

Team winner: Charlie Meehan and Gerry Stembridge (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Seán Moran (TCD Hist)

1982

“That politics in Ireland has become a media game”

Team winner: Michael Byrne and Gerry Foley (TCD Phil)
Individual winner: Liam Plant (UCC)

1983

“That the unilateralists are the appeasers of the 1980s”

Team winner: Eoin Ó Maoileoin and Damian Crawford (UCG Lit & Deb)
Individual winner: Bill Maguire (TCD Hist)

1984

Motion unknown

Team winner: Eoin McCullough and Brian Murray (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Pat Whyms (UCD L&H)

1985

“The Irish party political system fails to meet the needs of the people”

Team winner: David Holland and Bryan Hassett (UCC Philosoph)
Individual winner: Gideon Taylor (TCD Hist)

1986

“That Band Aid is no substitute for radical surgery”

Team winner: Declan McCavana and David Keane (TCD Phil)
Individual winner: Brendan Wilkins (UCG Lit & Deb)

1987

“That the GAA has made a positive contribution to the development of Irish society”

Team winner: Aidan Kane and Paul Gavin (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Conor Bowman (UCG Lit & Deb)

1988

“That Dublin at 1000 is both dirty and dear”

Team winner: Adrian Hunt and Tim Murphy (UCC Philosoph)
Individual winner: Robert Plant (UCC Philosoph)

1989

“That British justice for the Irish is a flawed process”

Team winner: Maeve Collins and Pat Twomey (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Julian Clare (UCD Law Soc)

1990

“That this house would be European first and Irish second”

Team winner: Brendan Lenihan and Don O’Sullivan (UCC Philosoph)
Individual winner: Tom Clonan (Cadet School)

1991

“That this house would prefer a woman at the top”

Team winner: Tim O’Leary and Pat Treacy (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Barra Faughnan (UCD L&H)

1992

“That investigative journalism undermines the due process of the law”

Team winner: Johanna Farrelly and Pat O’Keeffe (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Cian Ferriter (UCD Law Soc)

1993

“That the natural government for Ireland is coalition”

Team winner: Brendan Foley and Gavan Titley (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Kieran Healy (UCC Philosoph)

Marcus Dowling, Dara Ó Briain, and Bernard Dunleavy, with Elaine Kelly of Aer Lingus after their victory in The Irish Times debate in 1994. Photograph: Jack McManus/The Irish Times
Marcus Dowling, Dara Ó Briain, and Bernard Dunleavy, with Elaine Kelly of Aer Lingus after their victory in The Irish Times debate in 1994. Photograph: Jack McManus/The Irish Times

1994

“That the private lives of public figures are of no concern to the body politic”

Team winner: Dara Ó Briain and Marcus Dowling (UCD L&H)

Individual winner: Bernard Dunleavy (King’s Inns)

1995

“That this house would pay for a college education”

Team winner: Alan Roberts and Diarmuid Conway (UCC Philosoph)
Individual winner: Gerry Hyde (UCC Philosoph)

1996

“That this house believes the punishment should fit the crime”

Team winner: Helen Boyle and Paul McDermott (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Douglas Clarke (TCD Hist)

1997

“That this house would support public funding of political parties”

Team winner: Seamus Doran and Padraic O’Halloran (UL Debating Union)
Individual winner: Matthew McCabe (Sadsi)

1998

“Ireland should put social justice before a Tiger economy”

Team: Muireann Ní Cinnéide and Elizabeth Barrett (UCC Philosoph)
Individual winner: Paul Gleeson (TCD Hist)

1999

“This house would deport all refugees”

Team winner: Caoilfhionn Gallagher and Bernadette Quigley (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Rossa Fanning (King’s Inns)

2000

“This house would call a halt to the Tribunals of Inquiry”

Team winner: Michael Deasy and Rónán Mullen (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Louise Rouse (Sadsi)

2001

“This house agrees Sinn Féin has a place in this Republic’s government”

Team winner: Bríd McGrath and Yvonne Campbell (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Aoife Titley (TCD Hist)

2002

“This house regrets the American response to September 11th”

Team winner: Louis Mooney and Brendan Kelly (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Conor Buckley (UCC Philosoph)

2003

“This house believes that history will judge Ahern’s Ireland harshly”

Team winner: Leo Mulrooney and Colm Coyne (UCD L&H)
Individual winner: Alison McIntyre (TCD Hist)

2004

“This house regrets the restrictions on the media’s freedom of speech”

Team winner: Ian Kehoe and Michael Moriarty (DCU)
Individual winner: Paul Brady (King’s Inns)

2005

“This house would tie development aid to human rights”

Team winner: David Whelan and Sam Collins (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Frank Kennedy (UCD L&H)

2006

“This house believes history will judge Haughey harshly”

Team winner: Barry Glynn and Mark Murphy (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Diarmuid Early (UCC Philosoph)

2007

“This house believes that a neutral Ireland cannot fulfil its global responsibilities in the 21st century”

Team winner: Ciaran Denny and David Boughton (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: David Quinn (King’s Inns)

2008

“This house believes that Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to the Catholic church”

Team winner: Christopher Kissane and David Kenny (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Stephen Boyle (UCD L&H)

2009

“This house believes the partition of Ireland should remain permanent”

Team winner: John Gallagher and Andrea Mulligan (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Jeremy Kinsella (UCD L&H)

2010

“This house believes that Ireland owes a debt of gratitude to Fianna Fáil 1926-2010”

Team winner: Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin and Niall Sherry (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Seán O’Quigley (Griffith College)

2011

“This house would default”

Team winner: Áine Hartigan and Lorcan Price (King’s Inns)
Individual winner: Mark Thuillier (TCD Law)

2012

“This house would abolish prisons”

Team winner: Elizabeth Ahern-Flynn and Eoin Kelleher (RCSI)
Individual winner: Michael Conroy (UCD Med Soc)

2013

“This house would emigrate”

Team winner: John Engle and Liam Brophy (TCD Bram Stoker Society)
Individual winner: Kate Brady (TCD Hist)

2014

“This house believes the Irish political system has served the people well”

Team winner: Dearbhla O’Gorman and Kieran O’Sullivan (Sadsi)
Individual winner: William Courtney (UCD Med Soc)

2015

“This house believes the fourth estate failed the Irish people in their hour of need”

Team winner: Hugh Guidera and Ronan O’Connor (TCD Phil)
Individual winner: Eoin MacLachlan (UCD L&H)

2016

“That 2016 should be the last time Ireland commemorates the Easter Rising”

Team winner: Ross O’Mahony and Aaron Vickery (Sadsi)
Individual winner: Clíodhna Ní Chéileachair (UCD L&H)

Aisling Tully of UCD Law Society speaking during The Irish Times Debate 2017 grand final at Bolton Street College. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times
Aisling Tully of UCD Law Society speaking during The Irish Times Debate 2017 grand final at Bolton Street College. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

2017

“This House believes the women of Ireland should strike to repeal the Eighth Amendment.”

Team winner: Aisling Tully and Dara Keenan (UCD Law Soc)
Individual winner: Leah Morgan (Sadsi)

2018

“This house believes that Ireland has failed its youth”

Team winner: Aodhán Peelo and Cian Leahy (UCD Law Soc)
Individual winner: Amy Crean (UCD L&H)

2019

“This House would rescind Ireland’s position of neutrality in favour of a European standing army”

Team winner: Daniel Gilligan and Ronan Daly (TCD Hist)
Individual winner: Kevin Higgins (King’s Inns)