Excerpts from remarks by Michael Moriarty at the Irish Times Debate Final
Feb. 17, 2007 @ Trinity College Dublin
There is a danger that as our speakers spend more of their time in small competitive rooms, that the focus falls off the house debates and that we may lose some of our uniquely Irish style.
Ladies and gentlemen, I have some very important thanks to make this evening.
…In true Irish Time Debate tradition, I want to step back and look at the broader picture.
I want to talk about the nature of Irish debating and the role that this competition has.
In fairness to our competitors I will try to keep my remarks to seven minutes, just like they did, give or take a minute.
Ladies and Gentlemen, competitive debating has grown up in Ireland over more than a hundred years, and it has grown up from house debates that take place each week in colleges around the country. In halls crowded like this one, speakers have to win over and persuade audiences of their peers.
It is this tradition that has led Irish competitive debating to become very oratorical and audience focused. Its fantastic speaking style, one that we saw from all speakers tonight, which at the same time appeals both to the intellect and to the emotions of the listener.
And it is a style that we Irish debaters have brought to the rest of the world. Each year the winners of this competition bring their own particular oratorical charms on the tour of the U.S.
The team winners of the last year’s Irish Times also won the International Mace. Just under a year ago the World debating championships were hosted in Dublin by UCD, and in just over a year and a half they will be hosted in Cork by UCC.
And each year Irish debaters are involved at a highest level at World championships both as competitors and adjudicators.
But, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we become more focused on international competitions there is a danger. There is a danger, that as our speakers spend more of their time in small competitive rooms, that the focus falls off the house debates and that we may lose some of our uniquely Irish style.
Debating at an elite international level has a tendency to build up its own complex conventions and jargon. And these can hinder communication and accessibility in debating.
This could happen that in a particular round a speaker may give a very technical and well thought out speech that would very much impress three international adjudicators who may have about 12 to 15 years of debating experience between them, but that same speech may not mean much to the speaker’s parents who have come to watch or to the first year who is at their first inter-varsity.
I believe that debating is at its best when big ideas are contested by articulate speakers who can reach out and communicate sophisticated notions in an accessible manner.
But debating styles come and go and it’s not for me to say which styles should be pursued. What I can say is that this is a competition that over its 48-year history has grown up in that oratorical Irish house debating style.
This is a competition that has always rewarded those who can both entertain and persuade their audience.
And for however long The Irish Times is generous enough to sustain this competition, it will continue to be a home for this great tradition of Irish debating.
Ladies and Gentlemen it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you all this year.
Thank you very much.
Remarks by Michael Moriarty- Convenor of Irish Times Debates 2006/2007
Michael Moriarty won The Irish Times Debate and went on the US tour in 2004.
Moriarty was one half of the first team from his college, Dublin City University, to win the competition. Later that year Michael graduated with 1st class honors in Accounting and Finance from DCU, winning the college’s Chancellor’s Medal.
Michael now works as a tax specialist with PricewaterhouseCoopers. He recently completed his exams to join the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland and is now studying to become an Associate of the Irish Taxation Institute.