Concern Primary Debates 2024 champions from Emper National School, Matthew Kiernan, Charlie Flanagan, Edward Kiernan at The Helix.

Emper students win national debate title

Concern Primary Debates

The team from Emper National School have won the final in one of the top primary school competitions in the country, Concern Primary Debates.

Matthew Kiernan, Charlie Flanagan and Edward Kiernan made up one of more than 250 school teams participating in the all-island contest this year.

The champions were received their winning trophies on Wednesday evening at the Helix theatre in Dublin, having won after successfully proposing the motion that ‘schools are the key to ending world poverty’.

The debating trio were applauded at the event by family members and by their proud teachers from Emper National School, a small school with just 30 students near the Westmeath Longford border.

“What an achievement. We never expected this to happen,” said Emper’s team captain Matthew Kiernan.

The runners-up Killaloe Boys National School – Sam Davern, Joshua Woulfe and Tomás O’Connor – also received a trophy and both teams will be taken on a tour of the Houses of the Oireachtas at a later date.

All participants were praised for their efforts and achievements by the organisers, who also thanked the many community volunteers who judge each debate.

“We celebrate the achievements and learning of the thousands of children who took part this year and thank their classmates, teachers and families for all their support,” said Concern’s head of Global Citizenship Lauren Wright.

“Debating gives children the chance to learn about the world they live in and teaches them how to use their voice to express their ideas about how we can make the world a better place.

“Parents have told us how incredible debating has been for their children. Suddenly, climate change, poverty and world peace become part of their dinner-table discussions.

“The children learn how to prepare evidence-based arguments and to disagree politely – and this is very important as we try to improve our society and the world we live in today.

“Any school that would like to take part in Concern Primary Debates can contact us. We are also always looking out for more volunteers to help us judge each debate in their local schools.”

The runners-up from the semi-finals, Sooey National School, Co Sligo and Carrigen National School, Co. Kilkenny, also attended the final and received trophies for their achievements.

The competition is run by Concern in partnership with education support centres across the country and funded by the government’s overseas development agency Irish Aid.

Concern created a school debating programme 40 years ago to encourage further debate about global issues among young people.

Anyone who would like their school to take part in next year’s competition is asked to ring 01 417 7733 or email

Concern Primary Debates 2024 runners up Killaloe Boys National School.