Nigh on one hundred and seventy seven years have passed since Daniel O’Connell founded a debating society in Clongowes in an Ireland that had yet to experience the trauma of the Great Famine. John Maher (Elements) had been in the school (in a very different Ireland) for less than three months when he encountered the tradition that is the Past vs Present Debate. So enthused was John when we met him the next morning that we asked him to put finger to keyboard and give us his impressions of the big night…
“On Wednesday the 20th of November I witnessed a very good and intense debate between past and present Clongowians. On the present side were Jonathan Inglis, Dean Swift (both Rhetoric), Matthew Dundon and Michael Doyle (both Poetry). The opposition was John Bourke (OC 1955), Cormac Lucey (OC 1978), Oliver Moylan (OC 1953) and Eugene Hill (OC 2000). The motion was: ‘This house believes that we will have nothing to commemorate as a state in 2016’. They were going to talk about the Easter rising and I could tell it was going to be a tense and enjoyable debate.
Jonathan Inglis, Present team captain, started off the debate with an impressive and convincing argument and his team followed through with more points to support their stance. As time went by I knew it was a very close and, as I said, intense debate and I didn’t really know who was going to win. The two captains wrapped up the night with two very good speeches.
As John Bourke sat down after the last speech of the night, the three adjudicators Ms. Patricia Frampton, Mr. Justice Niall Fennelly and Fr. Michael Sheil SJ left the room to confer and the President of the Clongowes Union, Mr Peter Gray opened the floor for discussion. While it was slow to start, the comments from the floor were very thought-provoking and it emerged that the real question is, “If were not going to commemorate The Easter Rising, what would we commemorate?”
I thought the speeches from both past and present Clongowians were very structured. In addition, all the speakers were clear and were able to get their points across very well. The Past carried the motion, the speaker of the night was Cormac Lucey and there were two others highly commended, Dean Swift and Matthew Dundon.”
John Maher (Elements)