University College Dublin (UCD) was the overall winner of the Great Agri-food Debate in Belfast on Thursday.

The final debate of the two-day event was between UCD and Waterford Institute of Technology.

The motion for the last round of the competition was 'Global free trade, not subsidies, will deliver a sustainable future for European agriculture'.


The UCD team, captained by Una Sinnott, opposed the motion and based their argument on the merits of financially supporting farmers to produce food in an environmentally sustainable way.

Sinnott also argued strongly that subsidies are critical for maintaining the family farm model of European and Irish farm businesses, which underpins rural society.

“We are the custodians of our land, if we get rid of subsidies, we will be the destroyers of our land,” she said.


Waterford IT’s captain Danielle Mulligan lead a strong team with a well-presented argument.

“If you need a subsidy to make something sustainable, it certainly isn’t sustainable,” Mulligan said in her concluding remarks.

The debate was lively, with speakers having to contend with interventions and points of correction from their opponents.

Martin Beausang from Waterford IT won the best speaker prize for the final debate.


The competition is a joint initiative between Dawn Meats and McDonald’s.

Agriculture students at six third-level colleges across the island of Ireland take part in the two-day event.

The quarter-finalists were Queen’s University Belfast, University of Limerick, University College Dublin, College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE), Dundalk Institute of Technology and last year’s winners Waterford Institute of Technology.

The judging panel consisted of Nina Prichard from McDonald’s; German Ambassador to Ireland HE Mrs Deike Potzel; Food Safety Authority of Ireland CEO Pamela Byrne; Dawn Meats and Dunbia CEO Niall Browne.

The final was chaired by Bord Bia CEO Tara McCarthy.

Read more from the Great Agri-food Debate final in next week’s Irish Farmers Journal.

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