UCD comes out on top in second semi-final of ‘Irish Times’ debate

Student debate whether to ban imports from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory

Ross Merriman and Conor White of UCD’s law society go through to the ‘Irish Times’ Debate final. Photograph: Cailean Coffey

The second semi-final of The Irish Times Debate 2018-19 was an intensely competitive affair, as UCD'S law society team won out on a night when students debate whether to ban imports from Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

The debate, which took place in UCC, heard a debate over whether the house should support the passing of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) Bill 2018.

The proposed legislation, making its way through the Oireachtas, would make it an offence for a person to import or sell goods or services originating in the occupied territory.

The debate saw contributors from UCC, UCD’s law and history society, Trinity’s philosophical Society, UCD’s law society, UCD’s medical society and DIT offer a variety of views.


The first speaker of the evening, UCC's Ross O'Donohue, proposing the motion, highlighted Ireland's own history of oppression and how this should help Irish people empathise with those in Palestine.

The first opposition speaker, TCD's Amelia Melanson, spoke about the minimal economic impact on bill would have on Israel and how it would inhibit real political action being pursued through the European Union.

DIT's Rachel Orr, asked the house to consider not only the bill's impact on Palestinians and Israelis, but also on citizens of Ireland.

“This bill does not discriminate between illegal settlements and legitimate states,” she said.

Orr argued that the bill “allows us to continue to support a two-state solution and allows us to continue to criticise both sides.”

UCD's law society member Ross Merriman, the fourth speaker of the evening, argued that this bill was merely "political posturing" from the Oireachtas.

He said it would discourage Palestinians to start business, and also potentially resurrect anti-semitism in Ireland.

Jewish companies, he said, could be faced with having the gardaí call on them to determine if they used illegal materials outlawed in the bill.

One of the final speakers of this semi-final was Lucille Knight of Trinity's philosophical society.

In her speech, Knight proposed that “not only is this bill economically pointless, it’s against EU financial law”.

She asserted the belief from the opposition side that in order to trigger true change in the West Bank, international change was required. If Ireland passed this bill alone, it meant nothing to the Palestinians.

In her closing argument, she said the Irish Government "should do both the people of Ireland and Palestine proud by putting together a bill that will actually have an impact on Israeli settlements".

In the end, it was UCD law society’s Ross Merriman and Conor White’s combination of charisma, know-how and ability to pack-a-punch that won out on the day.

Individual debater Shane Kelly, who opposed the motion, also makes it to the grand final, which takes place in UCD on the 22nd of February.