Three of the five-strong Irish team bound for the World Schools Debating Championship in South Africa in January hail from Cork.
At the 2011 championship in Dundee, the Irish team lost at the semi-final stage to the eventual winners Singapore.
The team selected to travel to Cape Town at the weekend includes three of that team’s members: Rónán O’Connor, a sixth year student at Christian Brothers College in Cork, and Aodhán Peelo and Paul O’Dwyer, fifth years at Dublin schools Castleknock Community College and St Conleth’s College.
They have been joined by two other Cork students, Hannah Beresford — a fifth year at Loreto Secondary School in Fermoy — and Sam Browne, a fourth year at Presentation Brothers College in the city.
The quintet emerged from 18 competitors at national trials at Trinity College Dublin at the weekend, where competitors were given just 15 minutes to prepare speeches on unseen motions. Among the topics up for debate were the questions of whether hunger strikers should be force-fed and whether children should be indoctrinated in religion before they reach the age of 16.
“We would traditionally be one of the stronger countries, and we have won the world championships once, in Singapore in 2002,” said Barry Glynn, one of the team’s coaches and a former participant himself.
“We do a lot of practice debates against college students who are very good to give up their time to help out and the team will be meeting most weekends in Dublin between now and January,” he said.
Like many previous Irish team members, Mr Glynn went on to become a barrister, but he said there are also benefits for those who do not wish to pursue a career in the legal profession.
“A lot of broadcasters have debating experience from college, such as Marian Finucane and Derek Davis, and comedians like Dara Ó Briain and Jarlath Regan,” he said. “Taking part in activities like debating really stand to students in later life, it’s helpful for work in almost any career.”