Irish Rising in America

The 2002 Irish Tour of America


Introducing the Irish: Louis John Mooney, Brendan Kelly & Conor Buckley

Three Irish university students planning careers in politics, law and engineering have won the 42nd annual Irish Times Debate Final held Friday, Feb. 22 on the campus of NUI Maynooth. The three winners won a two-week tour of the United States sponsored jointly by The Irish Times and the National Parliamentary Debate Association. The tour will include a stop at the NPDA national championship, where the three winners will meet America’s best debaters in an exhibition on Friday, March 22 in Denver.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy,’’ said Louis John Mooney, speaking for all three. “It’s vindication for a lot of hard work.”

The Irish Times competition is a yearlong event, with preliminary rounds held in locations across Ireland. Four two-person teams, plus the four individuals advance to the championship debate. The best of the four teams and the single best individual in the Final win the Irish Times crown and the trip to America. The topic for the final round was “This house regrets the American response to September 11.”

The winning team is comprised of two students from Trinity College in Dublin who have been debating (although not always together) for six years. Brendan Kelly, 22, is a fourth-year law student from Drogheda (30 miles north of Dublin), who reached the semi-finals of the Irish Times competition in 2001. His partner Louis (pronounced Louie) John Mooney, 22, is also a fourth-year law student at Trinity who reached the semi-finals in 1999. Kelly and Mooney are also finalists in another major Irish debate championship, providing them a chance to sweep two of Ireland’s premiere debate awards in the same year. However, they will face stiff competition from TCD classmates Jim McElroy and Manus De Barra, who finished a close second in this year’s Times event – and who would love nothing more than to snag one of the two Irish debating titles.

Conor Buckley: The winning individual, Conor Buckley, 20, is a third-year electrical engineering student from University College in Cork. Raised on a farm in Rylane, in the county of Cork, Buckley took up debating because “I am an argumentative person.’’

Buckley admits he hasn’t fully absorbed the victory yet.

“I’m delighted, sure, but it’s tinged with a little guilt because their was another speaker that was so excellent,” said Buckley, referring to Ian Kehoe, the runner up in this year’s individual competition.

Buckley, who lives in the academic world of the sciences, enjoys needling future lawyers.

“I’m not like all those damn lawyers who take easy courses in college,’’ he grinned. ‘’I take real courses whose labs are harder than their whole courses!”

All three winners were ecstatic with their wins on Friday.

Brendan Kelly:“I’m extremely surprised and delighted,” said Kelly. “It will be my first trip to America.”

Kelly admits that his future career has a conservative agenda.

“I’m not one to save the whales,” he laughed. “I’m more likely to help someone sell them to the highest bidder.’’ Kelly, a self-described “political animal,” has already run for a local council position, and hopes to pursue political office as part of his law career.

Louis John Mooney: Mooney, a future attorney, says he’s been reading every newspaper he could find in preparation for the debates, and also has scoured Web sites for material.

Both Buckley and Mooney have had the opportunity to see parts of the United States before, but it will be Kelly’s first trip.