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Watch: UCD wins Great Agri-Food Debate final
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Watch: UCD wins Great Agri-Food Debate final

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University College Dublin successfully defended its title in the largest ag college debating competition to date at Waterford Institute of Technology. Watch the full debate.
University College Dublin successfully defended its title in the largest ag college debating competition to date at Waterford Institute of Technology. Watch the full debate.

UCD beat Cork IT in a close contest after debating the motion: “Ireland takes its environmental responsibilities and commitments seriously” this Thursday.

Both teams opened the debate with bombshell arguments, with UCD proposing the motion. Una Sinnott said that her team would "not be pulling the wool over your eyes" over the fact that Ireland would miss its 2020 greenhouse gas emissions targets, but insisted that the targets were wrongly agreed by then Minister for the Environment John Gormley.

"One man's bad judgement cannot represent an entire republic," she added. Sinnott later developed this argument saying: "Lads, we didn't get an industrial revolution. If agriculture represents 30% of emissions, it's a justified 30%."

This was a running theme through UCD's presentations, with Owen Cashman pointing out that Irish livestock are among the most efficient in the world and the country's emissions reflects the fact that "we have committed to feeding the world".

€450m emissions fines

Avril O'Driscoll of the CIT team (pictured) hit where it hurts in her opening speech opposing the motion, highlighting Ireland's expanding "massive dairy herd" and its associated greenhouse gases, as well as the country's sad record as the largest per-capita producer of plastic waste in the EU.

CIT student Donal Hanafin said that Ireland faces €450m fines for missing emissions targets by 2030 despite building as many wind farms as the country's capacity allows. Meanwhile, we import 85% of our fruit and veg, leaving a huge carbon footprint, he added.

His colleague, Lisa Kelleher, said that every Irish person produces 61kg of plastic waste each year, and 79% is not recycled. China banned imports of Irish plastics for recycling last month and this issue is now "at crisis point," illustrating the authorities' failure to tackle environmental issues and support those citizens who show concern for the environment, the CIT team argued.

UCD carried the day with clever interjections during CIT's arguments and flamboyant performances by Tommy Meade, who referenced his uncle's decision to fix a dangerous slurry leak and "risk his life for the fish of the River Boyne," and Una Sinnott, who won a second straight best speaker award.

Best speakers in the other debates on the day were Avril O'Driscoll of CIT, Aoife Forde of WIT and Owen Cashman of UCD.

The two finalist teams beat off stiff competition from Dundalk Institute of Technology, WIT and University College Cork earlier in the day.

The judging panel of 12 included industry leaders from finance, food safety, retail and agriculture such as Niall Browne, chief executive of Dawn Meats, and Peter Garbutt, agricultural manager of McDonald’s UK and Ireland, with both companies sponsoring the event.

Tara McCarthy, chief executive of Bord Bia, Ciaran Finegan of BWG Foods, and Pamela Byrne, chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, were also among judges.

Irish Farmers Journal editor Justin McCarthy was chairing the final debate.

After starting within UCD three years ago, the debating competition has grown to attract teams from five different colleges this year. Browne said he hoped a college from Northern Ireland would join the competition next year.

UCD won the Great Agri-Food Debate last year.

Read more

Profiles of staff and students from the five universities taking part

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