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Packed tightly into a minibus barrelling down the dual carriageway towards Belfast for the Northern Ireland regional forum of the European Youth Parliament, the team from St Colmanï¿½s College Newry knew that there was still time for some frantic last minute research and rehearsal of speeches. Captained by Caolan McNally and co-captain Cuan Hosty Blaney, the team rallied together the last of their speeches before fixing their uniforms to an acceptably ï¿½parliamentaryï¿½ standard and disembarking the bus, to enter the regional forum of the European Youth Parliament, hosted by Belfast Met.
With formalities and introductions dispatched, the commencement of the regional forum was officially recognised with the anthem of the European and we took our seats. Proposing a resolution surrounding mental health, our committee had the difficult task of being the first to take the floor and thus, were responsible for setting the tone of the forum. However, this was of no difficulty to Connor, as he read our resolution with clearly composed eloquence and gracefully thanked the chair and judges for recognising him to the floor. Leading on from Connorï¿½s adept delivery of our resolution, David now had the important task of justifying our resolution and proposing it to the other committees. Speaking again with an eloquent tone, David conveyed an admirable professionalism in his delivery. Having researched the motion extensively, not only was his delivery professional, but the content provided the perfect foundation with which we were to develop and defend our resolution.
As Connor and David took their seats, the members of the attacking committee knew they were facing a robust resolution to refute. As the attacking speech was being delivered, we frantically scribbled down facts and statistics to back up our resolution, preparing for the open floor debate and praying that our research stood us in good stead to answer anything the opposition could throw at us. The open floor debate got off to an ambivalent start, with many committee members still adjusting to the format of proceedings. Nevertheless, we effectively held our own and stood vigorously by our resolution. With the conclusion of the open floor debate, the chair now welcomed the summation speech from our committee. With my hand still hectically writing rebuttals to all the points raised in the open floor debate, I prepared to take my place at the podium. My page was plastered in an assortment of vibrantly coloured post it notes that had been written by myself and my committee during the open floor debate, one of which just displayed the word ï¿½Sheepï¿½ in capital letters, with the reasoning still unclear to me to this very day. Working through as many of the points raised as I could within the allotted time, I heard the 30 second time prompt and concluded with a quote from George Bernard Shaw before re-joining my committee at the table.
Jumping immediately into the next round of debate, the committee on international trade proposed a motion surrounding the trading of illegal diamonds. Having researched the motion thoroughly, we were again able to hold our own in the open floor element of this debate, with Cï¿½ï¿½n delivering effective arguments with his trademark delivery and dramatic flair.
With the conclusion of the second debate, the hour of lunch was upon us. Normally a time for rest and relaxation, the tempo of the day was immediately maintained with the distribution of food vouchers, as we tried frantically to calculate how best to get the full value out of our £6.00 allotment. Pockets now overflowing with bars of cadburyï¿½s, we found a suitably isolated corner of the building in which to discuss our tactics for the latter half of the day, lowering ourselves to a gentle whisper as members of the opposing committees drew nearer like trained snipers on reconnaissance. Having convened briefly with Mrs Quinn and Mr Sloane, we knew exactly what was expected of us; we needed more time on the floor, more occasions with which to illustrate our in depth research and more opportunities to leave an impression on the judges. We re-entered the hall, fingers twitching and armed to the teeth with statistics, ready to attack the opposing committeesï¿½ resolutions.
As the chair welcomes us back from lunch and recognises the committee on international trade to offer their defending speech, a commendably enthusiastic conall shoots his arm into the air, eager to demonstrate his extensive knowledge on the issue of fake news. His arm, however, quickly withdraws as he realises that he had in fact volunteered to defend the committeeï¿½s resolution, not attack it. Undefeated, he resolves to make up for his uncharacteristic lapse in concentration by assisting us in delivering one of our best open floor debates of the day. He frantically imparts his rebuttals on post it notes, launching them across the table to any willing recipients before executing a well delivered rebuttal himself. The chair recognises our committee to deliver the attacking speech on this motion and welcomes Oisin to the flood. Never one to crack under pressure, Oisin delivers a robust and logically airtight speech, knowing that a convincing performance in this round was absolutely essential if were to win. In fact, the committee went so far as to imply implementing our suggestions in their summation speach. With a solid speech from Oisin and having once again established our presence on the floor, we knew that the title was within our reach.
Going into the final debate, we knew we still had a lot of work to do if we were to secure the title. The last chance we would have to impress the judges would be in the final open floor debate, and again, we knew we had to get as much exposure as possible. Daniel, always sharp witted, was quick on the draw with direct responses in this final round, scoring invaluable airtime and bonus points for our committee as he tore apart some of the points raised in the most parliamentary of fashions. With the final summation speech from the last committee, the day of debating concluded as abruptly as it had begun. Now began the insufferably long wait to find out the result of the judgeï¿½s decision. The organisers tried to alleviate some of the tension present in the room by encouraging us to take part in some ï¿½energisingï¿½ activities that included imitating a jellyfish by flailing around in a circle in front of teachers, students and EYP alumni alike. As the doors swung open and the three judges marched back in, all tension that our jellyfish bonanza hoped to dissipate immediately returned. The tension was only broken when the committee names were read aloud and a flood of ecstatic relief consumed the team, epitomised in the emotional actions of Ben, as he bursts out with joy, throwing his arms around anyone within reach.
Written By Caolan McNally
11 April 2017
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