Students from Trinity College and Kings Inns universities secure places in Irish Times debate final

The final is due to take place at UCD’s Astra Hall on February 23rd, chaired by Chief Justice of Ireland Donal O’Donnell

Students from Trinity College and Kings Inns universities have secured places in the final of The Irish Times’ third-level debating competition.

Athena Wu of TCD’s Hist progressed as the top individual speaker in Friday night’s semi-final, while Ciara McLoughlin and Ceara Tonna-Barthet of The Kings Inn were the top team members to advance.

The semi-final took place at Rathgar Methodist Church, Brighton Road – celebrating its 150th anniversary this year – where contestants debated the motion that “this house believes community is dead”.

The judging panel said the standard of the debate was “extremely high”.


“When the winners spoke, style was combined with substance. There was great intellectual food for thought. There was superb humour. They challenged us to think about our own bias,” the judges’ citation said.

Friday’s semi-final included 12 competitors, comprised of four teams and four individual speakers.

Team members included Eoin Connolly and Rehan Haneef of Trinity College Dublin’s Hist; Robert Dinan and Calem Martin of the Solicitors’ Apprentice Debating Society (SADSI); Katie Kiely and Brooke Reid Dwyer of UCD’s L&H.

Individual speakers included Henrietta Vanni of TCD’s Phil; Conor MacCarthy of UCC’s Philosoph; and Rían Conway of UCC’s Philosoph.

The final is due to take place at UCD’s Astra Hall on February 23rd, chaired by Chief Justice of Ireland Donal O’Donnell.

The chairperson for the debate was Bríd McGrath, public affairs director with Oxfam Ireland and a team winner of the competition in 2001.

The judging panel included Aisling Tully, Irish Times Debate team winner in 2017; Amy Crean, individual winner in 2018; Dearbhla O’Gorman, senior associate at A&L Goodbody and team winner in 2014; Janine Ryan, associate at AIB Capital Markets and individual runner-up in 2011; and Mary Minihan, Irish Times features editor.

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.

Among the contestants who progressed from earlier semi finals to this year’s final include Louise Cullen and Eoin Ryan from TCD Law Society, Cadet Conall Gallagher from The Cadet School; Ellen McKimm and Stephen O’Sullivan from TCD Bram Stoker Club; Matilda Brewe from TCD Phil; Martha McKinney-Perry and Andy Cullinan from TCD Hist and Clíodhna McHugh from SADSI.

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

Follow The Irish Times education section on Facebook and X (Twitter) and stay up to date

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is Health Correspondent of The Irish Times