21 March 2023
By Tom Collins
Oliver McKenna, a student at Munster Technological University (MTU), was recently named individual winner of Ireland’s oldest higher education debating competition, The Irish Times Debate. This event is now in its sixty-third year. Oliver is a first-year student of Mechanical Engineering at MTU.
The competition commenced in October 2022 and attracted entries from over 150 higher education students. Following four rounds of intensive debating, just twelve students remained in contention. The final event was held in St Ann’s Church in Dublin where contestants debated whether the people of Europe should directly and democratically elect the President of the EU Commission. Oliver made a superb contribution to the debate, and this was recognised and rewarded by the judges when he was selected as the winner of the individual category.
MTU President, Professor Maggie Cusack, commented: “I am delighted to congratulate Oliver on winning the Individual Speaker’s Award at The Irish Times Debate. This is the first time in fourteen years that the award has come to Cork, and the first time since 1973 that a first-year student has won the award. On commencing his first-year studies at MTU, Oliver also developed the MTU Debating Society and all of us at MTU wish him every success for the future.”
The prize for the competition is a three-week tour of America during which Oliver will be competing against American college students. He will also get the opportunity to visit Oregon State Prison, during which he will debate with inmates as part of a prisoner rehabilitation scheme. Past winners of the competition include Darragh O’Brien and Marian Finucane, with past finalists including President Michael D. Higgins and former President Mary Robinson.
Oliver debated internationally previously having taken part in the Cambridge Union Debate and Oxford Union Debate while in secondary school, representing Christian Brothers College, Cork. In addition, he won best first-year speaker in Ireland in 2017.