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

Dundalk secondary school students victorious in organ donation discussion at Debating Science Issues Final

30 April 2015

The ethics involved in organ donations was the hot topic that was debated by secondary school students at the All-Ireland finals of the 2015 Debating Science Issues (DSI) competition. The competition was won by St. Vincent's Secondary School from Dundalk, Co Louth, who were flying the flag for Leinster. St Vincent's edged out Clonakilty Community College who are the current Munster debating champions. The finals were hosted by RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) at the College on St Stephen's Green. 

The Debating Science Issues champions of 2015; Pictured is the St Vincent's Secondary School from Dundalk, Co. Louth, team of Isobel Jones, Aoife O'Malley and Ciara McLoughlin.

The four competing schools, all winners of their respective provincial competitions, who took part in the finals were Clonakilty Community College, representing Munster and Cork; Ballinrobe Community College, Mayo, who won the Connaught finals; Our Lady & St Patrick's College, Belfast who will represent Ulster; and St. Vincent's Secondary School, Dundalk, Co Louth.

Leinster take on Ulster in the semi-final
DSI is a dynamic debating competition inviting young people to engage in debate on the cultural, societal and ethical implications of advances in biomedical science. Open to students in the senior cycle of secondary school, the competition provides a great opportunity for students to expand their communication and scientific skills. 

Pictured is Peter McManus from Our Lady and St.Patrick's College, Belfast

The four school teams competed in two semi-final rounds of debate at RCSI, where they debated the moral obligations of research using embryonic stem cells to develop new medical treatments. St Vincent's were successful versus Our Lady & St Patrick's College while Clonakilty beat Ballinrobe Community College.

Speaking on the competition, judge on the day Mr Lars Nolke (also Consultant Cardiothoracic Surgeon at the Mater and Crumlin hospitals, Dublin and Consultant Trainer, RCSI) said, "Organ donation really is a contentious healthcare issue in Ireland at the moment with the Minister for Health proposing legislation to allow people to opt out of organ donation rather than opt in. Therefore it was fantastic to hear the opinions our young people have on such issues. It is important that second level students are exposed to such topical issues, such as stem cell research and organ donations, if they are to consider pursuing careers in science and healthcare.'

Maria Kelly, REACH RCSI Programme Manager and Debating Science Issues finals co-ordinator, said ‘This unique All-Ireland project provides a great opportunity for second-level students to be exposed to some of the latest developments in biomedical research and also to consider the ethical elements which can be a great hook in developing interest in science among young people.' 

The moment St Vincent's were named DSI 2015 champions

Dr Maria Morgan, Senior Lecturer and Academic Director of the REACH Programme also commented ‘RCSI was delighted to host the DSI competition again which focuses on making biomedical science accessible and relevant to young people, challenging them with contemporary real-life issues, beyond their school curriculums, and helping to develop life skills in research and communication'.

Pictured are the winning team of the Debating Science Issues competition from St Vincent's School in Dundalk, Co. Louth with the organisers and judges of the DSI competition which features (on left in second row) Maria Kelly, REACH RCSI Manager and Dr Maria Morgan, Senior Lecturer and Academic Director of the REACH Programme (Front row seconf from left) and Mr Lars Nolke (front row far right).

The 2015 DSI All-Ireland Finals is funded by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Discover Programme project award, which was secured through the REACH (Recreation Education And Community Health) RCSI programme.

There are nine partners of the Debating Science Issues initiative, who are RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland); REDDSTAR (an EU project coordinated at NUI Galway); the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre at UCC; Biomedical Diagnostics Institute (BDI) at DCU; AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research); W5 in Belfast, INSIGHT at UCD; Cork Institute of Technology; and the University of Ulster.

For more information on DSI visit  

RCSI is among the top 50 most international universities in the world (Times Higher Education University World Rankings, 2014-15). It is a not-for-profit health sciences institution which focuses on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide. RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland. In 2010, RCSI was granted independent degree awarding status by the State, which enables the College to award degrees alongside its traditional powers to award licentiates.