Irish Times debating trophy


Sir, – The Irish Times debating trophy competition, whose 60-year-history since its inception in 1960 was chronicled in your columns on Saturday, did not start as a stand-alone competition.

It grew out of the preliminary rounds of the Observer Mace competition open to all universities in these islands in which Irish teams had taken part in the 1950s. In 1959, the UCD team of historian Owen Dudley Edwards and Nigerian medical student Godfrey Agbim won the Mace outright with Edwards also chosen as the best individual speaker. This inspired The Irish Times to offer the Demosthenes trophy for the best team in what was formerly just the final Irish round of the Mace competition.

It is a peculiar rule of the Irish Times competition that the individual award must go to a speaker who is not a member of the top two teams. This arose because it was a “heat” in the Mace competition, in whose semi-final there is a place for an individual speaker as well as for the top two teams from the final Irish round.

In 1961-2, the organisers of the Mace changed its rules so that the top two teams and the individual speaker from the final Irish round would go forward only to the quarter-finals of the Mace, not the semi-finals. The Irish teams withdrew in protest.

The Irish Times again came up trumps, presenting another trophy for a competition open only to Scottish and Irish teams. It was won by a Glasgow University duo led by the future Scottish first minister Donald Dewer, with the King’s Inns team of the future Mr Justice Geoghegan and myself in second place.

The dispute with the Mace organisers was resolved a few years later and in 1964 Patrick Cosgrave and Tony Clare brought the Mace back to UCD for the second time.

I wonder what ever happened to the Scots-Irish competition and the trophy donated for it by The Irish Times. The onset of Brexit in the teeth of opinion in Scotland and in both parts of this island may make a revival opportune. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 4.