Northup Serves as Judge for Ireland’s Premier Debate Championship

Brent Northup with the Irish Times debate championship winners - Eoghan Quinn, Aislinn Carty and Rachael Mullally.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

HELENA – Carroll College Talking Saints debate coach Brent Northup flew to Ireland to serve as the American judge in Ireland’s premier debate championship, The Irish Times Final. The final was held at Trinity College on Friday, February 28.

“It’s such an honor to be part of Ireland’s championship,” said Northup. “Ireland does debate right with the students in tuxedoes and formal dresses – and all the judges in formal wear as well. The auditorium was overflowing with a loud enthusiastic crowd. To top it all off the debate was chaired by Ireland’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Frank Clarke. My fellow judges were top Irish barristers, most of them former winners. One of us clearly didn’t belong.”

Winning the team championship were Trinity students Eoghan Quinn and Aislinn Carty. The individual title was won by Rachael Mullally of UCD Law. Afterwards the Irish Times sponsored an elegant banquet in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Irish Times Debate championship. The topic in the final was whether Ireland’s justice system was too weak on crime.

“More than 162 teams from throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland started in the competition early in the school year until the field was narrowed to the top four teams and top four individuals for the final,” said Northup. “Former winners have gone on to leadership in the country including Irish presidents, Michael D. Higgins and Mary Robinson. The chief justice joked that he was only a runner up in the competition.”

Northup founded the non-profit Pax Rhetorica to foster dialogue between students from different countries. Pax Rhetorica organizes a tour of seven American colleges for the winners of the Times competition.

“This year’s winners are scheduled to visit Tennessee, Miami, Washington, California, Colorado and Illinois,” said Northup. “But it’s looking now like campus shutdowns from the Coronavirus in some of those states may force cancellation of the entire tour for the first time ever. We’re already talking about a possible autumn trip for the winning students if that occurs.”

This was the 20th time Northup has served as the American judge for the Irish championship.

“I’m sometimes in the minority in selecting the winner,” said Northup, “because I’m looking for different skills than the other judges want. Some judges tend to look for traditional Irish orators with a distinct wit, and I tend to reward quiet analytical skills. But, hey, I’m happy to be outvoted just to sit in on the event each year and soak up all things Irish. Classy doesn’t even begin to describe the evening – regal is closer.”

This year’s Irish Times final occurred at the start of Carroll’s spring break, so Northup took a side trip to Sligo before coming home.

“I read some Yeats and visited his grave in Sligo,” said Northup. “I saw places where he lived and walked on beaches he loved. I even talked my Airbnb host into borrowing his friendly lab for a long walk along the beach. My spirit is renewed – and it’s green.”

Northup, who is teaching Organizational Communication this semester, also did a little research into one of Ireland’s most successful companies.

“I felt obligated to study a successful global company while I was there,” said Northup. “The tour ended with a close look at their products. I found the Guinness tasty, academically speaking, of course.”