Top debate teams from Heywood Community School and Portlaoise College battled it out in the final of the Laois County Council Junior Library Debating Competition, in council chambers this week.
The competition invited schools from across the county to take part. They were pitted in a broad-
ranging and spirited discussion on the topic ‘Literature, Art and Music should be freely available to
Proposing the motion was Heywood CS, and team captain Rachel Foley opened the debate by highlighting the value of literature, art and music and the central role played by libraries in giving access to them without charge. Rachel delivered an impassioned case for the mass availability of media, suggesting such access is a cornerstone of cultural and economic development.
Portlaoise College opposed it, and team captain Ella Fitzpatrick countered with the compelling case that the rights of the artist, particularly the right to earn a living, must be respected. The inherent value of quality art must ultimately be paid by someone.
The competing teams each forwarded four speakers, including the two team captains and the discussion raged back and forth with the opponents picking up on each other points and countering with creative and convincing counterargument.
Ciaran Weston of Heywood presented the case that mass dissemination of art allows the artist to reach a wider audience; while his team mate Josh Galvin augmented the case, indicating that services such as Spotify allow the listener to access an almost infinite number of recording artists.
Orlaith Condron of Heywood highlighted the therapeutic potential of literature and music and the role such media may have in supporting the mental wellbeing of the individual.
Speaking for Portlaoise College, Stephen Lynch delivered a particularly lucid counter, providing statistics on the meagre sums that streaming services pay artists.
His fellow team member Ben Campbell extrapolated on Josh’s arguments arguing the case that mass availability of music impacts on the quality of creative output.
Following on, fellow Heywood student Calum Ingham argued that the internet’s apparent democratisation of media is illusory, and that free music and literature has withered the cultural value of the created work. Compelling closing arguments by both captains knitted together the main points of the debate and it was anyone’s guess who would win.
After much deliberation, adjudicators Tony Mahon and Mary Heaney decided that Portlaoise College
had won the final debate.
Best individual speaker prize went to the Heywood team captain Rachel Foley.
Ms Heaney praised both teams for their efforts in what was a close-run contest.
The Cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Cllr Padraig Fleming delivered an address on the importance of debate as a cornerstone of democracy and free speech.
"We acknowledge all the parents that either attended or worked behind the scenes to support the debaters. All of the students taking part have sacrificed many lunchbreaks and free time to research their arguments and present their addresses. Particular kudos to all the teachers throughout the competition for their hugely commendable efforts in developing and encouraging the teams," Cllr Fleming said.
Photographs: Michael Scully.