Winning words by Abbeyfeale team at Gael Linn All-Ireland debating final!

The junior debating team from Coláiste Íde agus Iosef, Abbeyfeale, are celebrating having won the top prize in the Gael Linn Irish language debating competition, Comórtas An Phiarsaigh 2013 – a first for the school! At the All-Ireland Final held in Portlaoise, on Thursday last, 21st March, the talented Abbeyfeale talkers saw off opposition from St. Joseph’s College, Lucan, Co. Dublin, Athlone Community College, Co. Westmeath and Presentation Secondary School, Thurles, Co. Tipperary, to take the trophy. Speaking against the motion ‘Is féidir linne in Éirinn ár muinín a chur sa chéad ghlúin eile!’ (We in Ireland can place our trust in the next generation!) the Coláiste Íde agus Iosef team members, Lára Ní Dhonnchú (captain), Pádraigín Ní Mhurchú and Niamh Ní Mhuiris, made their well-informed arguments comprehensively to the large audience. They were highly praised by the panel of adjudicators, Aingeal Ní Chonghaola, Nicola Ní Bhraonáin, Cathal Póirtéir, Gerry Motherway and Colm MacLochlainn, most of who were former participants in the competition. There was great jubilation among their supporters when the Abbeyfeale girls lifted the Gael Linn Cup and teachers Patricia Hennessy and Eibhlín Ní Leabhlobhair, who guided the team on their road to victory, declared themselves extremely proud of their students! Regular participants in the competition over the years, this was the first time a team from the school has gone all the way to the top! The deserving winners were presented with a perpetual trophy and a cheque for €1,000, along with a Gaeltacht scholarship to a Gael Linn Summer College of their choice. Guest chairperson for the event, actress Brídín Nic Dhonncha, best known for her role as ‘Gráinne’ in the TG4 soap, Ros na Rún, was very impressed with the debating skills displayed by all the participants. Referring to the motion debated, she said that, having heard all the young orators speak with enthusiasm and integrity during the evening, we in Ireland can certainly have faith in the next generation!

The Gael Linn debating competitions have been an important element in Irish education for over fifty years. Organised by Gael Linn, Comórtas an Phiarsaigh is the national debating competition for second level students attending schools where Irish is taught as a subject. Noting that Gael Linn this year celebrates its 60th anniversary, Gael Linn CEO Antoine Ó Coileáin remarked that the debates were the longest established and most successful scheme in the organisation’s history. He paid credit to the generations of teachers who had championed the debates, giving many thousands of pupils the opportunity to participate.

Notable participants in Gael Linn debating since 1960 include Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Senators Rónán Mullen and Fiach Mac Conghaíl, Judge Mary Laffoy, comedian Dara Ó Briain and a host of broadcasters such as Marian Finucane, Mary Kennedy, Evanne Ní Chuilinn and Harry McGee. Many have credited the Gael Linn debates with fostering their love of Irish and with giving them confidence in public speaking.