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Debating and Public Speaking

Mercy Mounthawk has a distinguished tradition in both debating and public speaking. We frequently have made the later stages of national competitions in the Concern debates and in Spanish debates. Debating provides students with an excellent opportunity to develop communication skills and to gain a deeper knowledge of topical issues in the greater world.

Each year we hold a 2nd year in-house competition which is enthusiastically attended and hard-fought.  It provides a wonderful introduction to debating and speech writing.

The now annual Staff ‘v’ Students Christmas debate draws a great crowd every.  This is great fun with the only real rule that it is not to be taken seriously!

Debating 2023

Munster Schools Debating 2023

It was, once again, a very successful year in senior debating in Mounthawk this year as we reached the final of the Munster Schools competition for the third year running.

The Munster Schools competition is the most prestigious and, indeed, difficult competition available to our students. Hosted by the UCC Philisoph Society, debates feature eight teams of two in each early round with teams coming from all over the province. Teams progress as a pair but an individual can be promoted as a single if adjudicators wish.

The first round saw us entering 3 teams and, of these, 2 teams and one individual advanced to the next round. This was our most successful opening round ever and we were thrilled to have so many superb debaters still in the mix.  Eventually, one team (Tadhg Galvin and Clara O’Dowd) and 2 individuals (Laura O’Reilly and Layla Hannafin) made it all the way to the semi-final stage.

The standard of the semi-finals was possibly the best the debating coaches had seen with motions such as support for the human extinction movement, the notion of a centralised global government and mandatory Religion classes being vigorously debated.

One candidate was left standing as Tadhg Galvin made it through to the final. Getting better each round, this was a well-earned accomplishment for Tadhg. He put in a superb performance on the day arguing in favour of the motion: “That This House Would Implement Harsher Sanctions Against EU Member States in Non-Compliance with EU Law and Regulations” just losing out narrowly on the individual prize.

Well done to all the students who took part during the year and to Mr Fleming, Mr McElligott and Ms Fitzgerald who coached them throughout.

Debating Club 2023

Mercy Mounthawk’s long standing tradition of being involved with debating continued this year.  The Debating Club meets every Thursday during lunch time in the Library .The Debate Club is open to all students and welcomes new members.  It is mentored by students and overseen by teachers. It is a fun way to make new friends, develop communication skills and instil confidence in students.  Students gain a deeper awareness of global issues and sharpen their analytical thinking skills. Students are challenged to think outside the box when preparing arguments and sometimes present arguments they disagree with adding to the enjoyment.  The Debate Club organised a challenge debate against St Brendan’s Killarney this year which proved to be a great opportunity for students to practice their skills of research, reasoning and public speaking. 

This year the following TY students were afforded the opportunity to be involved with the Concern Debates’ Sadhbh Cadogan, Cian Hennessy, Noah Edwards, Brendan Linnane, Connor O Sullivan and Anuska Saha. September saw the commencement of the first of three debates.   In the first round the TYs met an experienced team from Mungret Community College and it was unfortunate that they were unsuccessful.  However, they learned from the first debate they prepared a compelling and succinct argument that won them a victory against North Monastery, Cork. Patrician Secondary School was the final school they faced where the students from Mercy Mounthawk proposed the motion that “HIV/AIDS in the global south is a forgotten pandemic”. The motion was successfully carried, however, the TYs did not accumulate enough points overall to enter the knockout stages. All in all they got a taste for debating and enjoyed the opportunity to absorb some new skills.


Debating and Public Speaking


2018 – 2019

Munster Schools Debating, Mr. Fleming

This year saw Mercy Mounthawk take part in the Denny Munster Schools Debating Competition for the first time. This well-established competition is hosted by UCC Philisoph and offers students the opportunity to compete at a very high level against schools from all over the province.  Debates include the opportunity to offer ‘points of information’ during opponents’ speeches and all speakers can expect to be subjected to some often robust counter-argument.

It was wonderful then, that in our first year entering, a team of two speakers made it all the way to the final!  Sean Hennessey and John McCrohan won through several rounds to make it to the final. On the way, they successfully argued against the use of violence to further the environmental agenda in one round and they also opposed the introduction of a law which would compel bystanders to intervene in violent crimes among other motions. In the final they debated in favour of a motion on the appointment of minorities to college professorships but lost out on the day to a most impressive team from CBC Cork. The boys were fantastic representatives of the school in every debate they took part in and certainly set a high benchmark for future Mounthawk teams in the competition.
We were also very ably represented in earlier rounds by Isobel Keane and Timothy Grimes. Both performed brilliantly and added to the presence of the school in the competition. Isobel, in particular, did well progressing to the quarter final stage only to be undone by a very difficult motion.


John McCrohan, Isobel Keane, Sean Hennessy, Timothy Grimes, Munster Schools Debating

John McCrohan and Sean Hennessy

In 2012 Mercy Mounthawk won the All-Ireland title in the Gael Linn Irish language debating competition.  

In 2008 Hayley Moore won the All-Ireland Lion’s Club Public Speaking Competition.

Mercy Mounthawk has a very strong record in the All-Ireland Concern Debating Competition having been national quarter finalists in 2008 and 2009.


Public Speaking

National Final of Soroptimist Girl’s Public Speaking Competition 2019

The Soroptimist Competition is an annual event designed to help young girls become more confident in and improve on their public speaking skills. Katie Crowe, Niamh McMahon, Alimat Babatunde, Nour Khidr and Isobel Keane represented the school in Killarney on November 29th.Niamh Mc Mahon and Katie Crowe, winners at the Killarney Soroptimist competition went on to compete in the Munster finals in Clonmel on 26 January. Niamh McMahon went on to distinguish herself at  the National Finals in the K Club in May.

Poetry Aloud


Majella Votta is National Winner of Poetry Aloud Poetry Aloud is an annual poetry speaking competition for post-primary school students across the island of Ireland. There were more than 1,700 entries received in 2018. The final event had 29 students from across the country compete in the junior, intermediate and senior categories. As the senior category winner, Majella Votta received €300, and as overall winner she was presented with a further cash prize and the Seamus Heaney perpetual trophy. Majella first entered Poetry Aloud in TY, essentially as a method of ‘forcing myself out of my comfort zone and to try something new’. She said she took a “fake it ‘till you make it” approach to her ‘debatable confidence’ in public speaking. Now, almost two years on, not only have the nerves acclimatised but it is something she thoroughly enjoys. She recited two poems in the final, one being an extract from Pablo Neruda’s “I’m Explaining a Few Things.” The other was “The Rain Stick” by Seamus Heaney. Majella was delighted that Heaney’s daughter, Catherine was one of the judges. Majella says participating in Poetry Aloud has made her a more confident speaker and has given her a deeper appreciation for poetry, a gift she is beyond grateful for and it has opened her eyes to the incredible literary culture that Ireland is home to. Her teacher, Ms Janette Condon accepted a prize of €300 worth of book tokens for the school library. The competition is organised by the National Library of Ireland (NLI)and Poetry Ireland, in partnership with UCC.

Majella with her prize

Mounthawk Students at the Poetry Aloud competition

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