- About The Phil
Anybody who does debating in Trinity College will tell you that Hallowe’en is a very scary time of year – you guessed it, it’s our annual trip out to Belfield Institute of Advanced Jam Making and Basket Weaving, otherwise known as UCD. The three day marathon known as the Vice President’s Cup is a gruelling test of endurance, willpower, resourcefulness, survival skills and navigation, where all it takes is one wrong step and you’ll be devoured by the savages that populate the concrete jungle, or worse, thrown into the lake by the tetanus fetishists. In fact, making it out of there alive is an achievement in itself.
First up on Thursday was the Novice IV – a baptism of fire for innocent, wide-eyed freshers in their first year of debating. Proceedings were begun with a tribal dance, an open heart sacrifice and loud, vulgar chants: and then they announced round one – That This House Would Ban the Niqab (can’t say Burqa because it’s incorrect – aren’t we glad UCD were the only ones to point it out to us). This was followed by a labyrinth-style find-your-way-around UCD’s arts block. To make it even more challenging, they pulled up the coloured navigation strips so none of us non-UCD folk could find our way around. Unfortunately for them, it didn’t have the intended effect, because it led to half of UCD going into meltdown because none of them could find their lecture theatres without those strips. Ah well, better luck next time, guys!
Moving swiftly on, two more rounds of debating took place, then the semi-finals were announced. Half the teams progressing were Trinity teams, three from the Phil, one from the Hist. The final was contested by a team from the Phil (Peter Gowan and Meghna Dholakia), a team from the Hist (Michael Coleman and John Prasifka), a team from UCD and a team from DCU. An intense debate followed, and then it was down to the pub for a few drinks before the verdict was announced. Then, against all the odds, the team from UCD won! It’s the ultimate underdog story! But seriously, well done to everyone. I’ve probably overlooked a few people, but congratulations also go out to William Dunne and Ben Butler for finishing in the top ten on the speaker tab, and Peter Gowan for topping it.
The next day saw the main event, the UCD IV 2011, which our snakish friends upstairs have won for five years running. Peculiarly absent were Oxford and Cambridge, the latter of whom had their flights delayed last year and presumably didn’t want a repeat. That and they were probably afraid of falling down the steps of UCD’s infamous “Vertigo” lecture theatres, which are so steep that if you are brave enough to venture in there, you’d better have a parachute to have any hope of surviving. Then again, if you do fall and survive, you’ll have to find your way back up out of that dungeon, by no means easy with an unwashed mass of UCD students trying to cannibalise you as you try and make your escape.
After an intense day and a half, the semi-finals were announced. In ominous fashion, our friendly neighbours in the Hist had four teams breaking – revenge for the Novice IV, perhaps? As the teams went off, prepared their cases and returned to start proceedings…there was a twist! Due to a tabbing error, one of the teams had been in the semi-finals by accident. Typical UCD! On a serious note, it was a real pity for the team that missed out, it’s never good to make it to the semi-finals only to learn at the last minute that there’s been a mistake.
A new motion was set: That This House Would Provide Euthanasia for Minors Regardless of Parental Consent. Had this been set during the preliminary rounds, I can imagine one of the bin room teams (I’m looking at you, Matt and Cian) pretending the motion is about suicide for miners. Instead, the semi-final I was watching was started by a team from Edinburgh, who made the impassioned plea, “Please, look deep within your hearts, and let these children die!”
The final was contested by two teams from the Hist (Sally Rooney and Kate Oliver in 1st Proposition and John Engle and Catherine Murphy in 1st Opposition), the team from Edinburgh and the team from Durham. An intense debate on meritocracy took place…then in typical UCD fashion, everybody was loaded on a bus, then taken out to a nightclub. Eventually, the judges reached a decision, and the winning team was…wait for it…John and Catherine. The Hist’s winning streak continues, they’ve now won it six years in a row, but like all things in life, that streak must come to an end someday. Maybe next year? Who could it be?
Remember, it could be you!