Trinity College and SADSI students secure places in Irish Times debate competition final

Speakers debated motion that ‘this house believes that unification is not in the best interest of the people of the 26 counties’

Students from Trinity College Dublin’s Historical Society (Hist) and the Solicitors’ Apprentice Debating Society of Ireland (SADSI) have secured places in the final of The Irish Times third-level debating competition.

Clíodhna McHugh from SADSI progressed as the top individual speaker in Thursday night’s semi-final, while Martha McKinney-Perry and Andy Cullinan of the Hist were the top team to advance.

The semi-final, which took place at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, was hosted by ARINS (Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South), a joint project of the Royal Irish Academy and the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

The Irish Times has worked alongside ARINS since last year on a series of reports on attitudes North and South under the direction of political editor, Pat Leahy.


Speakers debated the motion that “this house believes that unification is not in the best interest of the people of the 26 counties”.

The chairperson for the debate was Rory Montgomery, former Irish ambassador and member of the steering committee of the RIA/University of Notre Dame ARINS project.

The judging panel said the winning team of Martha McKinney-Perry and Andy Cullinan presented “brave and original ideas, and demonstrated a willingness to engage with the complexity of the other side’s arguments”.

They added that Clíodhna McHugh “effectively addressed old ways of interrogating the united Ireland debate, while also introducing a novel approach to analysing the issue”. The judges also admired her use of humour.

The judging panel included Aodhán Peelo, barrister and former Irish Times Debate winner in 2018; Bevin Armstrong, Labour Party staffer and former individual winner in 2022; Ronan Daly, former team winner in 2019; and Glory Anumudu, former team winner in 2021; and Úna McCaffrey, digital features editor with The Irish Times.

The contestants at Thursday’s semi-final also included team members Hannah Egan and Killian Farrelly of SADSI; and Tailte McSparron and Jonathan Massey of Queen’s University Belfast’s Literific society.

The individual speakers included Sarah Flanagan, Áine Dolan, and Morgan Cawley Buckley (all of SADSI); Fearghal Desmond of UCC’s Philosoph society; and Eoin O’Donnell of UCC’s Law Soc.

The last remaining semi-final is due to take place on Friday, while the grand final will take place at UCD on February 22nd, chaired by Chief Justice of Ireland Donal O’Donnell.

The longest running third-level debating competition, The Irish Times debate is in its 63rd year.

Previous winners include broadcaster Marian Finucane, comedian Dara Ó Briain, writer Gerry Stembridge and the late Adrian Hardiman.

The convener for this year’s Irish Times Debate is Chikemka Abuchi-Ogbonda, a legal associate and former Irish Times Debate team winner.

Members of the public can attend the debates, with tickets available to book free of charge at:

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter