Debating and Public Speaking


Over the years Sligo Grammar School has been involved in debating and public speaking. In recent years  both have become popular and  we have set up SGS DebSoc. The Society meets every week and Ms Hall is the teacher who gives up her time to give the students a chance to one their debating and public speaking skills.   The school enters competitions during the year.

2022 – 2023


On Saturday 25th March Alfie Barron and Siofra McElduff travelled to UCD for the finals of the National Schools Mace Debates. They spent the whole day at the University, debating in four different debates. The SGS students were placed on different teams with students from other schools across Ireland. In the first round Alfie was placed in second position and Siofra third. The second round saw Siofra win while Alfie was placed fourth. In the third round both of our students came first and in the final round Alfie was placed third and Siofra first. Ultimately it was Siofra who made it to the final debate, with her partner, a student from Loretto on the Green. Although Siofra and her partner did not win outright, it is fair to say that both Alfie and Siofra did SGS proud, making it through to the finals of this National competition. It’s been a fantastic year for the SGS Debate Club, and huge thanks go to Ms Hall who has given so freely of her time, both after school and at weekends.






During the Autumn SGS DebSoc members entered the Europe Direct Soapbox Public Speaking Competition. Entrants had to upload a video of themselves delivering a speech on the motion “Is Europe Listening to its Young People?”. The regional competition was aired on Friday 9th December from Sligo Central Library. Speaking in the 16 and under category were Conor White, Alana Guckian-Walton, Dara Kilcommons, Isabel Schoen and Phoebe Henry- Seitz. In the 17 and over section 5th year Alfie Barron and 6th year Anushka Pathak both competed. Anushka won first prize in her category and Alfie was runner-up Anushka will compete at the National Finals later in December. Sligo Grammar School has been competing in the Soapbox Competition for many years, with several students making it to the National Finals. Well done to all who took part this year and the best of luck to Anushka in the Finals. Thanks to Ms Hall for all her work with the SGS DebSoc. The Regional Soapbox Competition can be viewed at the following link.




At the end of November  Sligo Grammar School students , Eoin McCormack, Dara Kilcommons, Alana Guckian-Walton, Abigail Montgomery and Síofra McElduff, took part in the European Youth Parliament Connacht-Ulster regional session, held in the Sligo Park Hotel. Anushka Pathak, having had her own EYP success earlier in the year in being selected for the International European Youth Parliament, has taken on a central role as part of the EYP organising committee for this regional session.  EYP is an organisation that aims to promote youth involvement in politics and connect young people from all across Europe. During the course of the regional session the students were assigned to committees and discussed various important issues facing the EU today. By the end of the session each committee put together a resolution which states what they think are the most innovative and effective solutions to the problem. Each committee then presented and defended their resolutions at a General Assembly.  A huge congratulations to each of our students who took part, as all were on committees that were successful in getting their resolutions passed at General Assembly.


Fifth year student, Alfie Barron was selected to be part of Seanad na nÓg. This event, held on November 10th, was held in commemoration of the Seanad Centenary, which marks one hundred years since the establishment of the Seanad.
Seanad na nÓg brought together youth from across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and gave them the chance to debate various topics that they felt were important to young people across the island. The event was held in the Seanad Chambers in the Oireachtas buildings and the whole meeting was live on Oireachtas TV. One of these topics, the cost of student living, was ultimately selected to be an official motion of debate at a full Seanad sitting, early next year.
Alfie was one of the delegates from Comhairle na nÓg, and as well as debating topical motions he was interviewed by the media. The whole experience was very interesting and rewarding, a highlight of 5th year for Alfie!!


In September two of our debaters, Alfie Barron and Dáithí Meehan made it through to the Irish Schools Debating National Finals which took place in UCD in early October. The finals are to determine who will be on the Irish Schools Debating Team which will represent Ireland in Vietnam in July.  Alfie and Dáithí were the only students from Connacht to be chosen to go through to the National Finals. At the finals in UCD they got through to the Team Ireland Development Team and will now hone their debating skills at a national level. 

Earlier in the Summer Anushka Pathak was selected for the National European Youth Parliament (EYPl and, on the strength of her participation and debating skills, was then selected for the International European Youth Parliament which took place in Finland in August. Out of 400 applications, only 40 were selected to go forward – one of whom was Anushka. She is now a member of the organisation and will be on the Organising Committee for the Connacht/Ulster 2022/23 Regional Session of the EYP. 


2021 – 2022



Well done to SGS DebSoc member, Alfie Barron from TY,  who won the Regional section of the Europe Direct Soapbox Public Speaking competition. The competition is held annually and this year, thanks to Covid-19, it was a virtual competition. Ellen O’Hara,2nd year and  Dara Kilcommons, 3rd year, also competed against other secondary school students from Sligo town and county. The topic for discussion was “Lies, damned lies and statistics – Establishing the truth is impossible in today’s world of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda”. Alfie won an i-pad and went on to represent the region in the  National Finals on Thursday December 9th. The final was a virtual event and Alfie was placed second overall. A fantastic achievement!

The SGS DebSoc year started off with on-line trials for the Irish World Schools Debating Team (Team Ireland). Four of our Senior and TY students went forward to compete on Saturday September 18th. Anushka, Pathak, Cameron Kilcyone, Alfie Barron and Ciara Ryan all went on-line to debate with students all around the country for a place on Team Ireland. All debated fiercely on the motions This House Believes that governments should never rescue failing private industry and This House would ban mixed martial arts.  Alfie Barron made it to the finals of the contest, debating the motion This House supports gender quotas in National parliaments.  Unfortunately he didn’t succeed in getting a place on Team Ireland. Next year, Alfie!

2020 – 2021

SGS DebSoc up and running again!


Extra-curricular sports have to wait for the end of the month before they get the all-clear, but already today – first day back – our debating society, SGS DebSoc has had a virtual meeting. After a warm-up word game the club members broke into two teams and prepared a debate for next week. The motion: “THB Internet trolls should b e held accountable for their actions”. Students were delighted to be back to SGS DebSoc and It promises to be a good debate next week. Well done all debaters for getting back to it so soon and thanks Ms. Hall for making it possible!



Despite Lockdown two of our Debaters, Anushka Pathak and Mia Sawai-Brandon took part in an all-Ireland Debating competition and workshop run by the “Hist” (Historical Society) Trinity College, Dublin. The competition, for girls from TY, 5th and 6th year, was held on Saturday 27th March via Zoom. The day started with a workshop, where participants were introduced to the British Parliamentary debating format and then the teams debated three different motions. These included “This House Believes that traditional school subjects are still the best subjects for educating the youth of contemporary society” and “This House Prefers environmental optimism over environmental pessimism”.

After a full day of debating, the Finals were held. Unfortunately our girls did not make it to the Finals but the whole experience was very positive. Well done to them for taking part – especially during their Easter holidays! Thanks to Miss Hall for organising it and for her support on the day.

The Sligo Grammar School Debating Society is going strong again this year. With members from all year groups, the young debaters are busy thrashing out topical issues every Monday for an hour after school. The venue for 2020-2021 is the school library. This year Ms Hynes has stepped down as teacher-in-charge and has passed the baton to Ms Zoe Hall who would like to encourage any student who is interested in trying their hand at debating to come along. The first competition of the year is the EDIC Soapbox Public Speaking Competition. It will be held at social distance and recorded (for broadcast on EDIC social platforms) in The Model Arts Centre on 22nd October. The topic is “Everyone wants to go back to the pre-Covid way of life”. Speakers can speak for or against the topic. The SGS debaters always enjoy this competition and we wish them all the best again this year! Unfortunately Covid19 will prevent our usual Lunchtime Debates from taking place but nevertheless we wish all the SGS DebSoc members a great debating year!


We are thrilled to announce that 5th year student Tara McLaughlin is one of the two National winners in the National Final of the ActionAid Speechwriting Competition. Tara and fellow 5th year student Genevieve Cox reached the finals of the competition which were held on 2nd June, via Zoom. Both girls delivered excellent speeches about the importance of the empowerment of women in the context of Climate Change and Global justice. Tara will be travelling to Sweden to meet with representatives from organisations working on Environmental issues and visit ActionAid in Stockholm to see their work in Sweden whenever the present situation with regard to Covid19 is resolved.
Well done Tara and Genevieve!


In TY all students get to learn the skills of debating and public speaking in a seven week module. 

Above: DebSoc members 2019 – 2020 busily putting argument together for the motion “THW Arm the GardaI”

Well done to 6th yr. Juno Ellison who was one of three students to win the regional Youth Leadership Development Competition. An all-expenses-paid trip to Europe is her prize! Juno will visit Stormont and the Dáil where she will meet with politicians and business leaders, and then she will travel to Strasbourg where she will debate a variety of motions in the European Parliament. Juno had to do two interviews where she discussed her achievements in leadership and planning and organisation as well as her work experience and personal achievements. Juno’s active Transition Year and her involvement in school activities paid off in this as did her successes in debating. For the interviews she also had to demonstrate a good knowledge and critical understanding of social, environmental and political issues in Europe and Ireland. a well deserved win, Juno! Pictured with Juno are Máire Hynes, teacher, and Pat McNulty and Arnie Griffin of Rotary, Sligo. Arnie is also a past teacher of History at SGS!


Well done to all our competitors this year and especially first Year Alfie Barron who came second in the U18 competition. 

The competitions we enter include: 

West of Ireland Schools Debating Competition

This competition is a Mace/Parliamentary-style debating competition and requires a very different set of debating skills. It is run by NUIG who organise workshops as well as the debates themselves.  The students find this kind of debating very exciting. Teams are generally taken from TY and 5th year

Europe Direct Debates

A new competition was inaugurated in 2017.  The local Europe Direct office organise a debate for local schools . It is sponsored by the Sligo County Council and is held in the Council chamber during the final term.

Concern Debates. 

The school enters the  Concern Debating competition which debates issues concerning the developing world and human rights.


 Europe Direct Soapbox

Sligo Grammar School has had great success in the Soapbox Public Speaking Competition. We have had National Finalists from the school for the past three years.This competition is run by Europe Direct and each competitor had to deliver a three-minute speech on a specific topic.


The SGS DebSoc had a very successful term. A lot of 1st and 2nd year students joined and are enjoying the weekly activities. Ms Aoife Finnerty has joined Ms Hynes in running the society which meets on alternate Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The term started with a trip to NUIG for a Debating Day. A group of about 15 students went to Galway and did workshops in debating skills followed by debating competitions. Robyn Scott and Caoilte Brannigan emerged as winners that day. Genvieve Cox continued the SGS tradition when she won the regional Soapbox Public Speaking competition and went on to represent the region at the National Finals in Dublin. The runner-up in the regional competition was Aidan O’Reilly. For the first time in a number of years SGS debaters are involved in the prestigious Concern Debates competition. A team of four 5th year students, ably assisted by their researchers, have won 4 out of 4 debates in the league phase of the competition. This fantastic record should see us into the second phase of the Concern Debates. A group of three TY students gave up a weekend to do a residential debating workshop in Galway in November. This was funded by the EU and aimed to develop discussion and debating skills in a Mock European Parliament scenario. The New Year will see moore opportunities for our debaters and anyone who wishes to join the SGS DebSoc is more than welcome!

2016 2017

This year our team of Russell Nairn and Niamh Kilroy  got through to the Finals of the West of Ireland Schools Debating competition but could not attend the final – which was held in SGS – because of their mock exams. Bad timing! 

Russell also qualified for the National Trials  of the Team Ireland Debating Team. Unfortunately he did not get onto the National team, but we were very proud of his achievement. 

Our TY team along with some Seniors went along to Galway to compete in the Cambridge Schools Debating competition. The debates were very exciting and our new debaters did very well, though did not emerge as winners.

Europe Direct Debates

Our team of TY students argued a very difficult motion valiantly but did not win the judges over, emerging as runners-up. The motion was “This House Believes that Volunteering does make a difference” and we were arguing against it – particularly difficult as Sligo is European Volunteering Capital for 2017!

 Hopefully this is only the first of many Europe Direct Debates


 Europe Direct Soapbox

 Last year Jude Perry was the Regional representative at the National Finals at the National Concert Hall. In previous years Russell Nairn and Rowan Kelleher were the National Finalists from the region. This competition is run by Europe Direct and each competitor had to deliver a three-minute speech on a specific topic. 

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