Trinity students see ‘immense work’ pay off at European debating competition

Jack Synnott and Caoimhin Hamill set individual records as Oxford won team competition

Two Trinity College Dublin students were ranked as the best and second-best overall speakers at the 2021 European Universities Debating Championship in Madrid, Spain last week, breaking the record for points accumulated.

The annual competition saw 136 teams from universities across Europe participate. It uses the British parliamentary debate format.

Trinity Historical Society’s Jack Synnott and Caoimhin Hamill advanced to the grand final, where they faced teams from the University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and the University of Jerusalem.

They spoke on the motion ‘This House Supports a Multi-Speed Europe’, which covered an EU policy option that sees member states integrate the bloc’s policies at different paces.


During the preliminary rounds, Mr Synnott and Mr Hamill, who were also finalists in this year’s Irish Times Debate, secured 26 out of a possible 27 points, and ranked first and second as individual speakers. Organisers said they broke the previous record for points accumulated as individual speakers, which was set in 2013.

However, the duo were ultimately eliminated and the competition was won by Oxford’s Oskar Sherry and Rachel O’Nunain.

“We went up against the best teams on the continent hailing from Oxford, LSE, and Cambridge and repeatedly came out on top,” said Mr Hamill. “Achieving 26 out of 27 points was difficult but tremendously fun.

“It was a privilege to represent the College Historical Society. We put in immense work over the past year and were very pleased to see it reflected in a record-breaking success.”

Mr Synnott said he was “incredibly happy” with their performance.

“Debating at such a high level, against brilliant speakers from universities all across Europe, was deeply rewarding and intellectually invigorating,” he said.

“It was made all the better by getting the opportunity to compete alongside a staggeringly good partner and great friend, and it was an honour to represent Ireland on the international debating stage.”

The competition was organised by University Rey Juan Carlos and had a hybrid format due to the Covid-19 pandemic, with some debates held on site and others online.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter