Top-four finish for Knocklyon school in all-island debate contest

Padraig Conlon 26 May 2023
The St. Colmcilles team from Knocklyon who made the top four in Concern Primary Debates John Conolly (12) Mia OConnell (12) and Seán McGrenery (13)

A Dublin primary school debating team were praised after a top four finish in the all-island Concern Primary Debates competition.

St. Colmcille’s Senior National School in Knocklyon were runners up against Monaghan’s Deravoy National School in a semi-final showdown in Dublin city where they opposed the motion that ‘Ireland’s commitment to climate change is a load of hot air.’

The young debaters were disappointed not to win, but were delighted to have made the last four out of the over 260 school teams that participated this year in the contest, which is run by the humanitarian organisation Concern Worldwide.

“We wish the Deravoy National School team the very best. We really enjoyed the whole experience and learned so much along the way,” said St. Colmcile’s team captain Seán McGrenery.

“We are all so proud of them and it was a pleasure to work with them this year and see them grow in confidence as the debates progressed,” added the team’s mentor Grace Maher.

The St. Colmcille’s team who took part in the semi-final were Seán McGrenery (13), Mia O’Connell (12), and John Conolly (12).

Other team members who spoke at previous debates in the run up to the semi-final include Zakia Stevens (12) and Alanna Murphy (13).

John Connolly said his favourite debating motion this year was ‘If we are serious about climate change we should all fly less.’

Concern’s Head of Active Citizenship, Michael Doorly, praised the young debaters and said he hoped they will become life-long advocates on behalf of the most disadvantaged people in the world.

“It’s fantastic to see primary school children debating world issues and learning the great skills that come with that,” he said.

“We congratulate all who took part in the competition and e are extremely proud of their efforts.

“A staggering 3,600 students took part this year as speakers, researchers, timekeepers, and chairpersons.

“You can see the many skills they have developed like critical thinking and public speaking, and the empathy they have for other points of view.

“We are very grateful also for the outstanding effort and support from teachers, parents and family members.”

The Concern Primary Debates final will take place on June 15 in The Helix in Glasnevin where Deravoy National School will be up against St. Mary’s Senior Girls National School from Dunmanway, Co. Cork.

The competition is run in partnership with 16 Education Support Centres and with funding from the government’s overseas development agency Irish Aid.

Anyone who would like their school to take part in next year’s competition is asked to ring 01 417 7733 or email

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