1961-62 Debating Society
Vincent Browne, mentioned in dispatches
President - MR. KEVIN HAUGH Hon. Secretary - MR. R. WILSON
Director - REV. GEAROID O'SULLIVAN, C.M.
Committee - MR. J. DORGAN, MR. JOHN GRIFFIN, MR. DENIS HANRAHAN, MR. E. FARRELL, MR. E. GAVIN.
THE Senior English Debating Society completed a good year's work when on Sunday, the 27th of May, Fr. Walsh awarded his prize for impromptu debate to our President, Kevin Haugh.
The presence of a group of able speakers in sixth year ensured that a good standard would be set in each debate. It was decided during the year to change the debating arrangement we had followed and to evolve new one. This worked extraordinarily well and had the great merit that it encouraged a lots of new members to take the plunge; it also increased the interest-holding quality of the debates.
We opened the year with a forum, the subject being, " If I were director of Telefis Eireann." Mr. Haugh expressed a hope for a high standard of entertainment and a wide coverage of interests. Mr. Griffin gave a humorous commentary on the average B.B.C. play. He claimed that " Westerns" are not responsible for juvenile delinquency. B. Dwyer, P. Nolan, J. Dorgan and V. Browne also spoke.
Early in October we debated "That Ireland has benefited from British occupation This meeting was not as lively as we had hoped considering our theme. Fergus Armstrong, Morrow Hayes and Laurence Cheevers were among the speakers. Later in the month we debated" The Perfect System," a debate which produced a few gripes about but nothing of substance.
Mid-November brought an inter-schools debate with Saint Paul's. We travelled to Sybil Hill to oppose the motion, "That this house approves of Censorship." Rory Wilson, Kevin Haugh and Denis Hanrahan attacked censorship of films, literature and television, most effectively, we thought, but just failed to carry the house. We were charmed with the courtesy and hospitality our party were shown at Saint Paul's.
On the 9th February we held a forum on Irish education. Mr. Jerry Desmond held that out Irish system has failed because it has no relation to after-school life. He thought the two" dead" languages on the curriculum should be replaced with two living European tongues. Mr. Dorgan made a plea for the adoption of a modified version of the English system. He thought our treatment of physical education was a symptom of the weakness of our set-up. Our troubles lay in our utilitarian approach and materialistic values argued Mr. P. Nolan. Mr. L. Cheevers brought an enjoyable evening to an end with one of the most amusing speeches heard in the debating room in which he roamed freely from the Greeks to co-education.
Whether Ireland should join N.A.T.O. was debated with vigour towards the end of February. Early in March we had a debate between fourth year and fifth year. The motion was " that the sporting curriculum of the College should be widened." Edmund Gavin, Richard Aalders, John Fitzpatrick and Eric Farrell, among others, gave hope for the future years of the Society. We ended our second session with an impromptu debate on the 31st of March.
"That this house disapproves of the Americanisation of Irish Culture" was the first motion debated under our new arrangements. It was a most lively debate with a high standard of speaking on both sides.
Oliver Hume opened for the motion. He remarked on the instability of American 'Culture, its cosmopolitan appetite and its lack of spirituality. He said that their love of statistics sacrifices personality. Morrow Hayes from New York, opposing, pointed out how popular trends provide a common denominator for the youth of the world. He stated that cultural individuality is not conducive to political unity. Vincent Browne deplored the way Irish Culture is being swamped by a lightweight counterpart from "the States." James Dorgan reminded his audience of the great help Ireland had received from the U.-S. in her fight for independence and of the fact that the Western economy is stabilised by the dollar.
The second term's debating opened with an impromptu debate. Mr. R. Wilson, on the subject that "Cricket is not a suitable game for Irish colleges," pointed out that the Irish were more inclined and suited to mobile sports and that the patience necessary for cricket was not in their nature. Mr. Dorgan was quite humorous on the world being a better place to live in today than it was 200 years ago. Other subjects such as " that the College should provide us with boats on the Liffey," "that Ireland presents few opportunities for those leaving school," " that we should be allowed to go fishing," etc., were spoken to by P. Sheridan, L. Cheevers, D. Hanrahan and K. Haugh.
The high point of our debating year is the Medal Debate. The debate this year was held on Thursday, the 17th of May. We were very honoured to have as our adjudicator, a former Taoiseach, Mr. John A. Costello, S.C., T.D. This was a great debate with each side carrying their proper mead of conviction. The narrow margin by which the motion "That Nationalism is outdated," was defeated was a tribute to the speakers on each side. Mr. R. Wilson opened for the motion-we were facing new circumstances, he said. Nationalism for him was the history and geography of a country. The ideal nationalistic state had to be entirely self-supporting but he would examine the facts as they were and so he would like to see an end to nationalism though not to patriotism.
Mr. Gavin opposed the motion with a well delivered speech in which he traced the historical development of nationalism and argued its continuing presence and the necessity of coming to terms with it.
Mr. Hume told us that the nationalist called for the liquidation of the minorities in his " territory." He also spoke of the fissile nature of nationalism which is keeping the West apart and aiding the march of Communism.· He called upon the Church to exercise her supra-national mission to overcome a nationalism which can be coupled with neo-paganism.
Mr. Browne said everyone knew there was something wrong with Ireland-for him it was the lack of national spirit. He developed his idea by analysing nationalism in Finland and called on young Irishmen to imitate that country.
Mr. Nolan said that nationalism makes us over-sensitive to criticism and breeds complacency.
Mr. Denis Murphy defined nationalism as the wedding of a group of men to a country. He suggested the reviving of Irish as a spoken tongue to help revive a necessary nationalism.
Mr. D. Hanrahan, in a powerful speech, outlined the horrors and outrages caused by nationalism in Hitler's Germany. It also prevents the economic growth of a country. The communist practice was to divide and conquer and nationalism would be the most useful weapon on they would have in this tactic. He wished that patriotism be developed as a virtue -- it would be a good deal more helpful to the common good.
Mr Haugh accused his opponents of twisting nationalism out of its true context. It was irrational but that did not make it less valid, rather it made it more subtle to manage.If nationalism was as the opposition painted it, if they were consistent, they should not stand up for the National Anthem.
Mr Dwyer said that when, as a small boy he had enquired as to the motives of the I.R.A. he had been told it was a disease called nationalism. Surely this could not be good for a country.
Mr Dorgan was the last speaker and while slow to start, was excellent when he got under way. He pointed out the virtues of nationalism in Africa; the consequences of abrogating sovereignty and the results that might follow our having to swallow the extremes of Europe.
Mr. Costello awarded the Brady Centenary Medal to Denis Hanrahan. He made a most interesting speech and called on us to enter public life as those who had guided the country for the last decades were now about to leave and it was up to us to do our share.
Mr. Haugh proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. Costello and that brought the proceedings to an end.
The Secretary would like to thank the Committee and members who helped him during the year.