The Irish Debate Series was founded by Professor Gary H. Holbrook, The Metropolitan State College, in 1980. Professor Holbrook had been on Sabbatical at Trinity College Dublin, in 1979, doing research on the College Historical Society, founded by Edmund Burke in 1747. The College Historical Society is the oldest University debating society in the British Isles.
Professor Holbrook attended the final round of the Observer Mace Debates in Bristol, England in the spring of 1979, where the Irish teams finished first and second. The Irish had won the Observer Mace two years in a row, but it would be representatives from England who would tour the United States in exhibition debates under the sponsorship of the English Speaking Union. The English teams had been touring the United States since the 1920’s.
In the spring of 1979, Professor Holbrook hosted a series of meetings at Trinity College with a number of representatives of the major college debating societies to see if there was enough interest in an American tour to seek sponsorship for such a tour. It was concluded that the natural chain to select who would represent Ireland in an American tour was the Irish Times Debate winners.
Professor Holbrook contacted Christina Murphy, Education Editor and organizer of the debates for the Irish Times. Christina wholeheartedly supported such a venture.
Professor Holbrook returned to the United States in May of 1979 and secured financial support for the 1980 tour from the Adolph Coors Company. The Adolph Coors Company underwrote the tour for three years.
In 1983, the Friends of the Irish Debate Series was formed by Professor Holbrook, which supported the Irish debaters until the National Parliamentary Debate Association became the official sponsor of the American tour in 1997.
Since 1997 the Irish series has been a cooperative venture between the Irish Times and the National Parliamentary Debate Association. From 1999 to 2015, NPDA treasurer Brent Northup managed the project for NPDA – scheduling the American tour and coordinating the search for American debaters for the exhibition debate at NPDA.
In 2016 coordination of the Irish Tour moved to Pax Rhetorica: Words Across Borders, a non-profit dedicated to global dialogue, founded by Brent Northup.
-By Gary Holbrook & Brent Northup