Cork School Wins Prestigious Debating Competition

A Cork school debating team became all-island champions today after successfully arguing against Ireland’s continued commitment to military neutrality.

Rosscarbery’s Mount Saint Michael won the prestigious annual Concern Debates contest, which had over 100 schools participating this year, in a final with Athenry-based Coláiste an Eachréidh.

The event was broadcast live on YouTube by the humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide, which set up the competition in 1984 to encourage further debate and awareness of global issues and to improve the level of debating skills amongst young people.

Past participants of the contest include Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, RTÉ broadcaster Claire Byrne and Virgin Media presenter Karen Koster.

The debating champions – Lauren O’Donovan (16), Orna O’Brien (16), Ellie McCarthy (16) and Orla Tobin (16) – opposed the motion, ‘Ireland must remain committed to military neutrality.’

They and their opponents – Adam Keane (18), Culann Stephens (17), Adam Cunnningham (17) and Cianna Cullen (17) – were praised by Concern.

“The level of debating skills amongst the hundreds of students who took part in Concern Debates this year was exceptional,” said Concern’s Head of Active Citizenship, Michael Doorly.

“This year’s winners and runners up showed great clarity and intelligence and we applaud them for what was a well-researched and informed debate about a very topical subject.

“Debating is a wonderful and very useful skill for people to equip themselves with. It teaches us how to put our points across in a respectful, dignified, yet convincing way.”

The debating champions will each receive laptops as prizes while the runners up will get tablets.

Mount Saint Michael teacher and team mentor, Lorraine Teevan, said they have been participating in Concern Debates for 12 years and reached the semi-final in 2010 and the quarter final in 2020.

“Being involved in Concern Debates has helped our students to become more confident,” she said.

“They developed skills such as critical thinking, public speaking, research and presentational skills. They learned how to structure their thoughts and how to think on their feet.”

Coláiste an Eachréidh’s team mentor Marina Keating said this was her school’s first time competing in the 38-year-long competition.

“The team have been wonderful ambassadors and role models for their peers in their passion for getting to grips with topics such as world hunger, inequality, climate change and social justice,” she said.

The Concern Debates final can be watched back on Concern’s YouTube channel using this link:

Schools that want to participate in the next Concern Debates competition can email


The Concern Debates team finalists for Mount Saint Michael are left to right Captain Lauren O’Donovan, Orna O’Brien, Ellie McCarthy and Orla Tobin.


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