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An Chómhdháil & The Forum

Debating has been vibrant during the 2014/15 Academic Year; Gonzaga has enjoyed a number of achievements at both a Junior and Senior level.

Senior debating has seen much success: Mark Finn & Alan Hickey won the Aoife Begley Memorial Debating Competition in Maynooth University. This competition had 4 rounds culminating in a final; there were 80 teams in the competition. They also got through the Irish Trials of the Oxford School’s Competition and represented Gonzaga in the Oxford Union at the finals day in March along with the qualifying teams from England, Scotland, Wales, The Netherlands and Canada. (The other Irish teams were from Loreto on the Green and Wesley).

Gonzaga also had two students in the Leinster Junior Schools Competition Quarter Final (Luke Tackaberry & Eoghan Quinn) as well as three in the Leinster Senior Schools Competition Semi-Final (Aidan Fitzpatrick, Mark Finn & Alan Hickey – Peter McCormick and Conor Fitzmaurice also competed unfortunately losing out in tough Quarter Finals).

There were teams too in the semi-final of the Phil Speaks Competition in TCD and in UCD’s Literary and Historical Society’s Mace.

Finally both Mark and Alan qualified to represent Leinster, alongside 10 other students, at the National Trials for the Irish Schools Team; Mark made it down to the final 6 Competitors.

                                                         Mark Finn & Alan Hickey

Gonzaga Debating

In House Debating is also thriving. In September, debating for the new 1st year students began; weekly sessions commenced with topics including gender quotas in parliaments, the death penalty and the use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sport.

Coaching is provided for the 1st years each week with feedback following each debate. Much of the success of Gonzaga Debating is due to the coaching provided by Mark Haughton. Mark, whose many debating successes include being ranked as the 9th best speaker at the World University’s competition in Berlin 2013, provides coaching to Gonzaga and to him a great deal of thanks and credit are due.

Within the school this Autumn there was also the continuation of the Past Pupil’s debate series; the most recent motion was This House Believes that Capitalism is the engine of prosperity for all. As always there was a good attendance of students, parents and past pupils with insightful and informative contributions from the floor.

Started by Fr Joseph Veale SJ in 1955, debating has always been an integral part of Gonzaga. Debating and rhetoric is something Gonzaga, and indeed Jesuit schools in general, are known for. In its early days, Gonzaga was renowned for its philosophy of encouraging students to question ideas and to think for themselves; debating, the art of argumentation, is at the heart of this. Many past pupils of The College have gone on to outstanding achievements in debating; there have been many past pupils who became auditor of the L&H, the Oxford Union and the first Irish-born President of the Cambridge Union and multiple auditors of the L&H in UCD. Relatively more recently there have been eight Past Pupil winners of the Irish Times competition since 2003.

Today The Forum (Junior Debating) and An Chómhdháil (Senior Debating) remain an integral part of Gonzaga life. In the last few years Gonzaga has had students in Leinster semi-finals and finals on both a junior and senior level. There also has been success in ‘Mace’ competitions. (The name comes from the format of Debating used: British Parliamentary Mace). Indeed Gonzaga hosted the Inaugural Gonzaga Mace in 2013 and the second in February 2015 (Convened by Philip Mulvey).

Currently debating is run by sixth year students; coaching is provided for younger years and teams are entered into competitions throughout the year. Meetings for Juniors (1st - 3rd year) are on Mondays at 3:30 in the meeting room; senior meetings (4th - 6th year) are on Thursdays. All are welcome!