Taoiseach speaks at Hist debate

Posted on: 20 October 2023

Taoiseach speaks at Hist debate

Trinity’s College Historical Society is this week celebrating its recognition as the world’s oldest student society by Guinness World Records. Founded in 1770 to promote the study and practice of ‘History, Oratory and Composition," the Hist is marking the achievement with a series of events and public debates. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, a former Hist member, delivered a keynote address on the importance of student debate during which he referred to the role student-led debate played during the Marriage Equality and 8th Amendment referenda. 

“We live in an age where information is abundant but it seems wisdom is often scarce. We’re inundated with misinformation, increasingly divisive politics and ever-polarising opinions. In that context, debating is not a skill but a survival tool. 

Debates are important because we learn best from listening to others. Student debating matters because today's speakers are tomorrow's policymakers, leaders, lawyers, judges, decisionmakers, debaters and creators. 

We are stronger from having our ideas tested, challenged and interrogated.” 

Responding to the Taoiseach’s speech, two-time world debating champion Bo H. Seo said “what we're going to have to do as a generation, as members of this community, as leaders of this society, is to reclaim a space where people are allowed to express uncertainties, when they're allowed to make mistakes and where they’re allowed to try new ideas.” 

Maggie Larson, former Auditor of the Hist, highlighted the skills students gain from engaging in debate and illustrated the need for students to learn to communicate their views and “to engage with others, to experience criticism and conflict in a way that is constructive.” 

TCDSU’s President László Molnárfi said “student debate is very important because it allows us to challenge those in power and the prevailing ideas of the ruling elite.” He criticised a number of the government’s policies and urged students to hold the government to account.  

Malika Maniar, Treasurer of the Hist, said “student debates holds an important place in society. The heart of a debate is not the quality of the speakers or the quality of the ideas but the conversation it provokes afterwards.” She went on to add that debating "teaches people that they have a voice and have something to contribute.” 

The final speaker, Andy Cullinan said that “debating is in historic and transformative activity [which holds] equal respect for every single speaker regardless of their argument.” He said that debating is taught in small number of secondary schools and called for debating to be made more accessible.