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Public Speaking and Debating

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On Saturday April 26th Ríán Derrig, Aidan Rowe and David Gallagher of St. Gerald’s College, Castlebar were crowned winners of the 27th Mental Health Public Speaking Project in The Edmund Burke Theatre in Trinity College, Dublin. Their opposition on the night came from Avondale Community College, Rathdrum, Wicklow and Presentation College, Listowel, Co. Kerry and all three teams were required to present the team topic “A rising tide lifts all boats. What happens when the tide goes out?" in relation to Mental Health.

R to L: Mr Liam Printer (teacher), David Gallagher, Aidan Rowe, Rián Derrig, Mr Sean Burke (Principal), Mrs Veronica Rowe (teacher)

Each team comprised of three speakers and they were each allowed 7 minutes to present their individual speeches. The girls from Presentation College, Listowel were the first team to take the floor and they used the team topic to discuss mental health at various stages of life – childhood, adolescence and adulthood. They presented some great quotes, anecdotes and references to aptly portray the different stages of human development and what each effect each stage has on our mental wellbeing and each of their speeches was full of energy and vigour.

Avondale Community College were next up and they too had decided to focus on the various stages of life as a core basis for their speeches. The girl’s speeches were all very well structured and brilliantly presented. They went into lots of detail on eating disorders in teenage girls and what effect this has on our mental health. They also spoke about spending in the area of mental health and what the government need to do to improve the situation for the mentally ill.

The boys from St. Gerald’s were the last team to take the floor and as soon as they began they brought a great calm and sincerity to proceedings. Ríán Derrig opened up for St. Gerald’s and he immediately set the team apart from the competitors in saying that “we are all boats, Ladies and Gentlemen” and that each of the team members would discuss a different type of boat which would represent different types of people in our society. Ríán focused on the strong boats in society – the people who are valued and supported by their friends, family and community and who therefore achieve positive mental health. His speech was exquisitely presented and highly emotive, leaving a lasting impression on both the adjudicators and the audience in general.

Next up for St. Gerald’s was Aidan Rowe and he focused on the “weaker, less well kept boats” – the most vulnerable people in society. He stated that these were the people “who get dragged out to sea when the tide goes out”. Once again he kept the core point of the importance of local community running through his speech. He also introduced us to the wonderful metaphor of “the rescue boats” – the mental health services that can “tow a wayward boat back to safety”. His presentation was also excellent and he spoke in a very calm and soothing manner.

The final speaker for St. Gerald’s was David Gallagher and he maintained the exceedingly high standard of presentation of his two team-mates as he talked about the “boats that have hit rock bottom” – those people suffering from mental illness in our society. He explained that “some boats were already leaking even when the tide was high” and that we need to continually support and value these “damaged boats” in order to help them defeat their mental illness. Continuing with the overall theme of community he also discussed the importance of the local community to people; explaining that it doesn’t matter how much the government invest in mental health services if we as a community do not lend our support to the vulnerable in society. David concluded by telling the audience how they could “throw the rope of support to a neighbouring boat” by simply valuing and supporting everyone in society.

A huge amount of praise should go to their tutors from the school, Veronica Rowe and Liam Printer, as it was clear that the boys were very well prepared on the night but each of the boys speeches were their own work and everyone agreed that they were brilliantly written, exquisitely presented and were full of original thinking and emotive arguments. Their confidence and composure on stage were a credit to their school and county and it is no wonder they were deemed overall winners of the competition after such a wonderful performance.

Last Updated on Jun212011