THIS year the Debating Union (Deb U) celebrates 40 years of debates on campus. Since the foundation of the NIHE Limerick in 1972, students have held debates on issues of the day and UL’s founding president, Dr Ed Walsh, has often said that a debating society was the first society that students wanted to create. Deb U has hosted Taoisigh, ministers, presidential candidates and international journalists, among others, and has sometimes flirted with controversial topics, such as abortion and gay marriage.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan will be Deb U’s first guest this year, speaking to the society on Thursday, Week One. Mr Noonan topped the poll in Limerick at last year’s election and has been a major figure in Limerick politics for decades; as finance minister, his role is more important than ever, especially in these dire times. As always, this is a public event and all are welcome to come and hear the minister speak. Previous speakers include Senator David Norris, former minister Eamonn O Cuiv, Guardian columnist Julie Bindel and former Prime Time host, Mark Little.
Later in the semester, UL President Prof Don Barry will address the society and receive an honorary life membership. This will be a unique opportunity for students to hear the head of the university speak at an event organised by students. The most recent honorary life member is controversial journalist Max Keiser, who addressed the society to great acclaim last semester.
Former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald received Deb U’s Auditor’s Medal last year shortly before he passed away, while former UL president, Dr Ed Walsh received the prize in 2010. The society is in the process of choosing this year’s recipient, who is guaranteed to be a compelling public figure. It is hoped that this year’s event will be even better than last year’s.
Debating’s competitive side is still key to the society’s annual activities. Two Limerick teams attended the world championships in the Philippines over New Year’s and the society has attended European championships in Estonia, Turkey, England, Amsterdam and Galway over the last five years. Deb U has also travelled to all Irish universities as well as Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London in the last year.
As the Debating Union prepares to host a series of interesting guests and attend competitions leading up to the European championships in Belgrade in the summer and the world championships in Berlin at the end of 2012, things are looking bright despite the economic gloom. As the University celebrates 40 years of higher education on campus, it is only right that its students celebrate the contribution they have made and continue to make to campus life.