Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI Debating Triumph

20 February 2012
The Irish Times Debate 2012 concluded on Friday night with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) being crowned the team victors in a debate on the motion ‘That This House Would Abolish Prisons'. The RCSI team comprising 3rd Year Medicine Students Eoin Kelleher and Elizabeth Ahern-Flynn supported the motion and beat three other teams - TCD Hist, TCD Phil and UCD L&H.

 Irish Times DebateKevin O'Sullivan, The Irish Times editor presents the Irish Times Debate final 2012 team trophy to RCSI Students Eoin Kelleher and Elizabeth Ahern-Flynn.

The debate which took place on home soil in a packed out O'Flanagan lecture theatre, had an atmosphere more akin to a sports event than a debate and when Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of the Irish Times announced RCSI as the team victors, the crowd went from uproarious to ecstatic.

During the debate, Elizabeth Ahern-Flynn described jail as a ‘road block in the progress of humanity. Prisons represent this horrible side of humanity, the search for vengeance...We think that more engagement needs to be had with the criminal rather than taking something from them and telling society that the balance has been addressed...she said, labelling this ‘a cop out'. Eoin Kelleher drew laughter from the crowd when he labelled the packed hall as ‘fuller than Mountjoy and only a little bit less threatening'. He said ‘prisons exist so that we can lock away our problems in a box and forget about them'. He argued that if you grow up in a poor society, then you are more likely to end up in prison.

Irish Times Debate Elizabeth Ahern FlynnRCSI Student Elizabeth Ahern Flynn during the Irish Times debate final

The debate which was chaired by Mr Richard Bruton TD, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, was the last of 29 debates in this year's competition and is the first time RCSI has won the competition since 1963 (when Desmond King won the Individual Prize). Incidentally, RCSI has not featured in the finals since 1963, in this annual debate dominated by Law, Arts and Humanities Faculties - meaning we have a 100% success record! - and are all the more proud of last Friday's success.

Professor Hannah McGee, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences congratulated Elizabeth and Eoin on an outstanding victory: ‘The importance of debate and discourse in learning cannot be underestimated. The preparation and delivery of argumentation provides students with the opportunity to think critically, develop their academic research skills, improve their communication abilities and solve problems - all of which are important attributes in preparing for a career in the medical and health sciences." Elizabeth and Eoin fought off more than 300 competitors to be crowned the winners of the Irish Times 2012 debate. This is a fantastic achievement and RCSI is hugely proud of their success. Congratulations also to Mark Abel, 2nd Year Medicine who went as far as the individual debate semi-finals. The individual competition on Friday was won by Michael Conroy, UCD Medicine, making it an (unusual) all-medicine victory night.

Professor McGee also credited the RCSI Debating Society for hosting and running the national finals on Friday, and the RCSI staff - particularly Margie Morgan, Corriena Brien, Dr Orna Tighe, the College porters - and the many other who support students in their extra-curricular activities in the evenings and weekends: ‘This support is often less visible and acknowledged than the formal academic support given to students, but just as important in making student life rounded, worthwhile and successful".

We all wish Elizabeth and Eoin the very best of luck as they represent RCSI and take part in a debating tour of America as part of the National Parliamentary Debate Association of America, the largest college debate organisation in the United States.

Eoin KelleherRCSI Student Eoin Kelleher during the Irish Times debate final