Trinity College Dublin students Eoghan Quinn and Aislinn Carty were crowned team champions of the 60th Irish Times Debate competition at the event's grand final on Friday night.
The individual speaker’s award went to Rachael Mullally representing UCD Law.
Speakers were competing for the Demosthenes Trophy for best team, and the Christina Murphy Memorial Trophy for best individual, as well as a place on a month-long tour of the US for the three winning speakers.
The grand final of the competition took place before an audience including former winners and finalists stretching back over six decades at Trinity’s Public Theatre.
The motion up for debate , "This house believes that the Irish criminal justice system is too weak on crime", resulted in combative and entertaining contributions from teams representing UCD, Trinity, NUI Galway and the Law Society of Ireland.
The final of the debate, the country's longest third-level debating competition, was chaired by the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, a former finalist.
The adjudication panel included Irish Times editor Paul O'Neill; former pro-chancellor of TCD Prof David McConnell; Ambassador Maeve Collins; Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC; chair of communications at Carroll College Montana Prof Brent Northup; former debate winner Aislinn Tully; and former finalist Ross McGuire.
The judging panel noted the particularly high quality of debate this year and how little separated the winning teams and runners-up.
This year's runner up was the UCD Law team of Mark Smyth and Cora Keegan. The individual runner-up was Harry Hogan of TCD Phil.
Other speakers at Friday night's final, hosted by Trinity's Hist society, included Cormac O'Brien, Shannon Buckley Barnes and Eamonn Burke of the Solicitors' Apprentice Debating Society of Ireland (Sadsi); Ruairc O'Leary, Lucille McKnight of Trinity's Phil; and Simeon Burke of NUI Galway's Lit and Deb.
This year’s competition kicked off last October, with 162 third-level students vying to be crowned champions.
Paired into teams of two, they faced off in the debating chambers of universities throughout the country including Queen’s University Belfast, UCC and UCD.
Four semi-finals, each producing one team and one individual winner, were held earlier this month to decide the finalists for the grand final.
The competition has been an early proving ground for many who have gone on to forge distinguished careers in law, medicine, theatre, media and politics.
Former winners and finalists include presidents past and present (Michael D Higgins and Mary Robinson), politicians (Eamonn McCann, Mary Harney, Brian Lenihan and Rónán Mullen), broadcasters (Henry Kelly, Derek Davis and Marian Finucane), senior civil servants and judges (Adrian Hardiman, Frank Clarke and Donal O'Donnell, ).