Since its renaissance in 2003, the society has grown in number and achievements. Run by an elected committee or Board, the students hold fortnightly meetings to debate currents issues and prepare teams for the various competitions which we have tackled.
For a small society we have contested and been successful in a range of local, national and international events. The 1608 Debate was born in the light of the quatercentenary of the Royal Schools which was a highlight of 2008 for us all. Since then, the five schools have met annually to renew friendships and connections through team debate. The Royal School Armagh has won the Harry West Cup on four occasions to date. The Northern Ireland Schools Debating Competition has seen several finalists into the Individual Speaker competition held each April at Stormont. Three times now the society has won the Best Team award. We have had an individual finalist at the All Ireland Schools Debating Final at Trinity College Dublin. Debating Matters is a UK wide competition for schools and three times we have been won through to the regional final in Edinburgh. Prior to the last Olympics, we took part in a model UN session in London where students represented Argentina, China and Malta. We also took a team to the All-Ireland EC student debate at Dublin Castle where the issue was halting the effects of climate change. The revival of the Literific Debating for Schools held at Queens University Belfast meant that we added another competition to our growing list. On an ad hoc basis, the society has taken past in Soroptimists Public Speaking Challenge, The BPW public meeting competition and the Edgar Graham Individual Speaker event
At the end of each session, the society meets to hold an awards dinner to celebrate successes and bid farewell to those members who are moving on. We now have two cups which are presented on Speech Night autumn: The Senior Debating Society Cup for outstanding contribution and Logos awarded to the winning team in our own debating society competition. This was first awarded in 2013-14 to recognise the tenth anniversary for the SDS.
The Senior Debating Society offers a variety of experiences to all senior students alongside the opportunity to expand their skills in public speaking and reasoned argument. All are welcome.
JUDGES’ PROFILES The 1608 Debate
Professor John Thompson (Chair of Judges)
Prof Thompson’s research interests include early book history and the history of printing and publishing; English literary production and reception, c. 1300-1600; anglophone Ireland, c. 1300-1800; textual editing and textual afterlives.
He was Director of the ‘Geographies of Orthodoxy’ AHRC Research Project with colleagues from QUB and University of St Andrews and also Director of the ‘Imagining History’ AHRB Research project with colleagues from QUB.
He is a founder member of The Irish Humanities Alliance, formed in September 2013. It is a joint initiative of Humanities researchers within eleven higher education and research institutions, including all of the universities, North and South, Dublin Institute of Technology and the Royal Irish Academy.
Building on the success of the above, Prof Thompson is now an editorial board member of the JISC-funded project: ‘Manuscripts Online: Written Culture 1000-1500’.
Mr G Berry
Mr Berry has established a reputation in Criminal Defence. He worked with a number of well-known QCs during his time as a Junior such as Desmond Boal, John Creaney, Michael Lavery, John McCrudden, Seamus Treacy and Kevin Finnegan. He would always acknowledge the amount he was able to learn from these great advocates and their great forensic skills.
He took Silk in 2006 at the age of 39 which was very young for such an appointment. He continued to specialise in criminal cases and has been briefed in virtually all the leading and high profile trials in this jurisdiction.
He has a reputation as a fearless advocate, a ferocious cross-examiner and possesses one of the sharpest tactical legal minds of the current era.
In his profession he served as Vice Chairman of the Bar Council – the organisation which represents Northern Ireland’s 600 Barristers and has also chaired the Northern Ireland Bar’s Professional Conduct Committee.
He is a Governor of the Observatory and Planetarium at Armagh and is a friend of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Away from work Greg is a sports fan and was a one time member of the Cricket Club in Armagh. Whilst at the School he played Rugby and Cricket to a very mediocre level but now greatly enjoys the success of others.
Dr Stephen Day
Dr Day has a PhD in political science and he worked with Prof Paul Bew on conflict in early twentieth century Ireland. On attachment to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as an advisor on conflict resolution, he worked in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2005 -2008. He has been a visiting lecturer at Kings College London and other prestigious institutions.
Since 2009, he has worked with the National Trust and subsequently Armagh Public Library (founded 1771).
His interests include naval history of the 1800s, the Georgian period and writing on his research into our lesser spotted history. Once he too was a rugby player, a winger. Now he hill walks, kayaks, dives and still has a really nasty tennis serve.
Mrs Geraldine Kelly
Mrs Kelly taught English, History and Geography, as well as C.S.P.E. in St. Louis, Secondary School for thirty seven years! During that time, she was a debating coach for teams involved in the Mental Health Public Speaking competitions and more especially in the Leinster Schools debating competition.
After reaching the quarter finals several times, in the early 2000’s the school reached the final and the girls were runners up to Gonzaga. They went on to win the play off in Cork and subsequently won the All Ireland. In London the team from St Louis competed against Scotland, whilst England competed against Wales. Unlike the rugby, and due to the odd way of adjudication, England won the overall debate!
Ross Kelly who attended St. Macartan’s reached the final of the Leinster Schools competition and was also chosen for the Irish team for the Worlds in Singapore. They went on to beat Australia in the final and were the first Irish schools’ team to win the Worlds.