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University of Limerick Students' Union
Ulsu logo.png
Established 1972
Institution University of Limerick
President Ruán Dillon-McLoughlin
Sabbatical Officers Derek Daly (Deputy President & Welfare Office)
Aoife Finnerty (Education Officer)
Aoife Finnerty ( Education Officer)
Fergal Dempsey (Campaigns & Services Officer)
Aoife Ní Raghallaigh (Communications Officer)
Location Students` Union Office
Affiliated to None
Homepage University of Limerick Students' Union

The University of Limerick Students' Union (Aontas na Mac Léinn, Ollscoil Luimnigh) is the representative body for all students at the University of Limerick, situated in Limerick, Ireland



The National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE) was founded in Limerick in 1972. The 113 students who started in NIHEL, that year, founded the Students' Union, which was later to become the University of Limerick Students' Union.

In its early years, all officers served in a voluntary capacity. The first officers elected included John Redington (President), John Kerr (Vice-president), Fionnuala Lyddy (Secretary) and Eric Duhan (Treasurer). Pat Carroll was elected in 1975 as the first full-time President. The National College of Physical Eductation (NCPE), subsequently Thomond College of Education, had a separate students' union also founded in 1972 until its amalgamation with the University of Limerick. Its first President was Brendan Lillis.

From its inception in 1972, the union had been involved with USI. ULSU withdrew in 1991 from USI after it decided that the national union was no longer doing what it should be doing for ordinary students on the ground. ULSU has never reaffiliated to USI, although an inquorate referendum held in 2001 on the issue indicated some support among students for such a move. The votes cast in this referendum were counted and showed that just under 55% of students who voted were in favour of rejoining. Three things must be noted here:
1- 66% in favour would have been needed to pass the referendum (ref:, 6.3 and definitions 19)
2- the referendum did not have enough votes (only 700, ref:, article 6.2 (changed from 20% to 15% in 2006) and schedule five) to be deemed valid and
3- the "no" campaign was essentially, "don't bother voting", to ensure an inquorate (and therefore invalid) referendum. This may indicate that a number of those who would have voted "no" just didn't bother.

However it has, on occasion, supported campaigns organised by USI. Following moves by USI to welcome non-affiliates 'back into the fold', ULSU instituted (in 2006/07) a process of review of the non-affiliation. This was reacted to with great hostility by the union's main decision-making body, Class Representatives' Council, in early 2007, and so a proposed referendum never happened. However, sabbatical officers will continue to attend USI training as it has fostered a greater relationship of cooperation with the national union.

ULSU is also one of the more active members of FUSU (Forum of University Students' Unions). FUSU recently welcomed Dublin Institute of Technology into the group in recognition of the Institute's size and similarity to a university. FUSU is not a competitor organisation for USI, rather it is more of a discussion forum and information exchange. This is particular useful for ULSU.

Current issues

2006/07 saw many more campaigns than previous years, due in part to the split in the position of Communications and Campaigns officer. These included:

  • Road safety campaign. This received national coverage
  • Car parking campaign. This petered out after students lost interest.
  • Fees and grants march. This received national coverage as the only protest on the issue this year.
  • Anti-nuclear campaign which was contentious with many students

Organisation and Services

The Union represents UL Students at many fora within and external to the university. There are currently five full time sabbatical officers (President, Deputy President/Welfare Officer, Vice-President/Education Officer, Vice-President/Campaigns & Services Officer and Vice President/Publications and Publicity Officer), combined with a number of voluntary non-sabbatical positions, which are elected each year by the students. Until 06/07, ULSU had only four full time officers - the Vice-President/Communications & Campaigns Officer position was discontinued and a new Vice-President/Publicity & Publications Officer and a Vice-President/Campaigns & Services Officer took office. In the first semester of the 2008/09 academic year the title of the Vice-President/Publicity & Publications Officer was changed to Vice-President/Communications to better reflect the role. The Union employs four other full time and two part-time members of staff and owns a company, ULSU Services Ltd., which run both Students' Union Shops on campus. The Union also provides other services to students - graphics, Nitelink bus service, education advice, welfare advice, second-hand bookshop, phone repairs etc.

The Students' Union has two publications, a fortnightly newspaper, An Focal, and a monthly arts magazine, Pulse. These are edited by the Publications and Publicity Officer.

The Students' Union in UL has two main differences from other Students' Unions.

  • It has a Postgraduate Students Association - to represent all Postgraduate Students on postgraduate issues only. The Postgraduate students elect a full-time sabbatical president for the PSA.

University of Limerick Debating Union

The University of Limerick Debating Union is a society devoted to the British parliamentary style of debating. A debating society has existed in UL in one form or another since the foundation of the National Institute for Higher Education in 1972.[1]

The Debating Union holds in-house debates on issues of public interest and current affairs as well as private members motions on lighter issues. Debates in previous years have focussed on such issues as the American presidential election, the environment and the future of the European Union.

All Irish universities are active in debating and the Debating Union consistently competes in inter-university events both in Ireland and abroad. The Union hosts a competition every year in March, which attracts some of the best debaters in Ireland, Britain and the world. The Union has attended both the European and World debating championships for many years.

Notable alumni of the Debating Union

Notable officers

Diarmuid Scully (SU President 1992-93) is a Limerick City Councillor and became Mayor of Limerick in 2005.

External links


  1. ^


The University of Limerick Debating Union is a society open to the students and staff of UL to engage in debate on topical issues and participate in student inter-varsity debating competitions. The Debating Union motto is Verbum Satis Sapienti Est.



  • The John Holland Theatrical Society
  • The Literary and Philosophical Society
  • The Parliamentary Debating Society

The John Holland Debating Society

The first student debate in the college took place in the East room of Plassey House a few weeks after the opening of what was then the National Institute for Higher Education, Limerick in 1972. One of the first societies set up on Campus in 1972 was the Ubraxion society. However between then and 1985 no society lasted longer than a couple of years often ceasing to exist and being reborn and renamed another year.

The current society traces its roots directly to a society which was founded in October 1985 based in the tutorial room C1056. Between 1985 and 1986 the name of the Society changed on numerous occasions as part of a running joke which saw a new name being adopted every week. The name finally settled on (John Holland Debating Society) refers to the lecture theatre on Block D Level 1 on the main building of the University of Limerick which has become the regular home of the society. At first the Society used a Schools Debating Format with teams of four competing in a league. However this soon gave way to University style debating. Private Members Time was introduced in 1986.

In the early times the society used to meet twice weekly, often during lunch-time. The first intervarsity the society entered was in Galway in 1987 with a team of (Little, Green and Neville Bourke).

The Literary and Philosophical Society

Following the announcement of the elevation of the college to University status the society sought a more prestigious name and so the the John Holland Society became the "Literary and Philosophical" society in 1988 when the Society's activities also moved to a larger venue (Jean Monnet theater). This society retained the John Holland's character and combined formal debating with dramatic and comedic activity.

The Parliamentary Debating Society

The Parliamentary Debating Society was formed in 1991 to provide greater focus on competitive debate. The society initially returned to the roots of Limerick debate by utilising the John Holland Lecture Theatre.

Competition and Collaboration

The "Lit and Phil" and the "Parl Deb" operated separate societies but had some overlap in membership. While it was not uncommon for members from one to turn up at the other to heckle (in a good humoured way) rival speakers the relationship between the two societies was generally good. The Irish Times Debating Final of 1992-93 was hosted co-operatively between the societies. Where there remained substantial differences it was in the aims of the two organisations. The Lit & Phil put greater focus on weekly debates and on entertainment. They mixed house debates with more drama focused elements such as a version of "whose line is it anyway". The society met on Wednesday nights often in front of large crowds in the Jean Monnet theater. The Parl Deb met on Tuesday nights and focused mainly on a less crowd pleasing format of competitive debating. These attracted significantly smaller crowds and the society based itself in the smaller John Holland Theater. This difference in emphasis can be seen in participation in the 1993 World Debating Championships when the smaller society sent 2 teams (Derek Sheahan & John McElligott, Diarmuid Scully & Niamh Lyons) and a judge (Mark Dowling) to the championships while the larger society only sent one team (Matthew Hamilton & Hugh Gallagher).

Formation of the Debating Union

Financial and organisational pressures forced the merger of the Literary and Philosophical and the Parliamentary Debating Societies in the 1994-5 session. At this stage there were also significant overlaps in membership. While the two societies had elected committees and auditors at the end of the 1993-1994 academic year both worked over the summer to finalise details of the merger which took place in the first week of the new academic year. A new name the "University of Limerick Debating Union" was adopted.


The membership elects a committee at the annual general meeting. The highest position is that of Auditor. With the exception of Vice-Auditor and Speaker Development Officer,which are appointed by the Auditor, all other positions are elected by the membership. While many debating societies use a mayoral style chain to indicate the Auditor, in UL the auditor wears an academic style purple gown. Due to the semester system in UL where students spend semesters away from college on "Co-Op" work experience there is often a change in Auditor, and other committee members, mid way through the year. Vice positions were abolished in 2008 but may be re-instated in the future.

Past Auditors

2009-2010 Una O' Grady
2008-09 Emma Kerins
2007-08 Finn McDuffie
2006-07 Oisín Collins (Autumn Semester) Niamh Madigan (Spring Semester)
2005-06 Stuart Wallace (Early Autumn Semester) Oisín Collins (Late Autumn and full Spring Semester)
2004-05 Judith Lynch (Autumn Semester)Stuart Wallace (Spring Semester)
2003-04 Michelle Ni Ghaboid
2002-03 Sarah Carew (Spring Semester)Timmy Hennessy (Autumn Semester)
2001-02 Julian Moore
2000-01 Conor Barry (Autumn Semester) Cait NiChochlain (Spring Semester)
1999-00 Michael D. Hourigan
1998-99 Tracey Cooney (Autumn Semester) Colm Linnane (Spring Semester)
1997-98 Seamus Ryan
1996-97 Colm Flynn (Autumn Semester) Niamh MacAteer (Spring Semester)
1995-96 John McElligott (Autumn Semester) Mark Dowling (Spring Semester)
1994-95 Margaret Stronge-Smith

Parliamentary Debating Society:

1994-95 John Baird (Summer only).
1993-94 Derek Sheahan
1992-93 Diarmuid Scully

Literary & Philosophical Society:

1994-95 ?? (Summer only)
1993-94 Matthew Hamilton
1992-93 John Maguire (Michaelmas Term), Raymond Hurley (Hilary & Trinity Terms)
1991-92 Neville Bourke (Michaelmas Term), John Maguire (Hilary & Trinity Terms)
1990-91 Donal Waide
1989-90 Neville Bourke
1988-89 Alan O'Donnell

John Holland Theatrical Society

1987-88 Daniel Murphy
1986-87 Stephen MacNamara
1985-86 Ian Cullen


House debates

The Society holds public debates on both serious and light hearted topics. Some of these drew large crowds to see guest speakers, such on the Northern Ireland Peace Process and the 1995 Divorce Referendum. Among those who have spoken at the Society are Catholic values campaigner Nora Bennis, former Irish government Ministers Michael Noonan and Ray Burke, the late TD Jim Kemmy, former MEP Paddy Lane and former Mayor of Derry Richard Dallas. Then University President Dr. Edward M. Walsh (now President Emeritus) delivered a paper to the society on the idea of a modern university - among those who replied was novelist John Connolly, who was then Education Correspondent for the Irish Times.

Annual intervarsity

This competition started life as the "Mini-Worlds" in 1994, introducing a worlds-format tournament at this level when most other competitions used a knockout or straight final format at intervarsity level. The competition slowly grew but as the Worlds style format became more popular it was quickly outgrown by large competitions at Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and University College Cork and indeed the format has become the norm for Irish intervarsities. Nevertheless, the social aspect of the competition, and its usefulness as a preparatory tournament to the European Championship meant that Limerick attracted teams from the US, Germany, France, Greece, Scotland and England over the years.

Ciaran Treacy Perpetual Trophy

Ciaran was a student who entered the Campus in 1987. His interests included Basketball, Music and Debating. He was known affectionately by his nicknames "Basketball Billy" and "Trasyballs" or just "Trasy". His life came to a premature end on the 7th of October 1989 when he was killed in an automobile accident - just one day after his 21st Birthday.

To preserve his memory a Perpetual Trophy was inaugurated in his name and awarded to the winner of the society's internal individual speaker competition. The Trophy itself was donated by the Treacy family and contains a miniature of a sculpture of the mythical warrior Cúchulainn (Setanta) - tied to a standing stone with a raven on his shoulder - set on a marble base. The original sculpture, honouring the martyrs of the Easter Uprising of 1916, is called "The Death of Cúchulainn" by Oliver Shepardon and is on display in the General Post Office on O'Connell Street in Dublin. In 1996 it was decided that as with the, Irish Times Debating Competition, past winners would not be eligible to re-enter but would be encouraged to adjudicate the competition.

It replaced the Don Reddin Trophy (Lit & Phil) and the Presidents Prize (Parl Deb) as the main individual speakers competition. Details of the Don Reddin and Presidents Prize are not currently available.

Past Winners and Runner Ups:

2006-07 - Aidan McDonagh - Maurice Cotter
2007-08 - Aoife Finnerty - Diarmuid Healy
2006-07 - Eamon Quinlan - Oisin Collins
2005-06 - Sarah Carew - Michael Keary
2004-05 - Shane Moloney - Eoin Gubbins
2003-04 - John Fitzgibbons - Shane Moloney
2002-03 - Paddy Buckley -  ???
2001-02 - Grace Lord -  ???
2000-01 - Claire McCarthy - Grace Lord
1999-00 - Keith Pigott - Marcus Lynch
1998-99 - Michael D. Hourigan - Claire McCarthy
1997-98 - Míchael Healy - Rose Kavanagh
1996-97 - Colm Linnane - Claire McCarthy
1995-96 - Colm Flynn - Brian O'Farrell
1994-95 - Padraic O'Halloran - Colm Flynn
1993-94 - Brian O'Farrell - Dearbhla Considine
1992-93 - Robert O'Meara - Lorna Kerin
1991-92 - James Hurley - John Maguire
1990-91 - Eoin Crowley (1)
1989-90 - Colm O'Gairbhigh - Diarmuid Scully
    • (1) There was no Contest held during the Academic Year 1990-91 but the Auditor Donal Waide gave the Award to Eoin Crowley in recognition of his general contribution to the Society during that year.

Team Debate

The Team competition was traditionally held in Term 1 and has also been called the "O'Mahoney's Debate". The competition has lapsed in recent years, but was reinstated by the society in the Autumn semester of 2007-08. The competition was started in 1995. Unlike the Ciaran Treacy there is no bar on past winners defending their title. It is also the most open of the competitions with all current members and life members eligible for entry. This was originally a Mace format debate, 4 teams per debate and advance notice of motions, held over 2-3 weeks on a knock out basis. However in 1998 this was reviewed and changed to a worlds style debate to give it a more intervarsity feel and allow graduate life members and adjudicators attend.

Past Winners and Runner Ups:

YEAR WINNER Individual award
2007-08 - Adrian O'Higgins & Maurice Cotter - Oisin Collins
2006-07 - n/a - n/a
2005-06 - n/a - n/a
2004-05 - Paddy Buckley & Eamonn O'Flynn -  ???
2003-04 - Paddy Buckley & Eamonn O'Flynn - Julian Moore
2002-03 - Keith Pigott & Michael D. Hourigan - Paddy Buckley
2001-02 - Keith Pigott & Michael D. Hourigan - Kate Coughlan
2000-01 - Claire McCarthy & Barry McLoughlin - Fiona Clandillon
1999-00 - ??? -  ???
1998-99 - Colm Linnaine & Claire McCarthy - Barry McLoughlin
1997-98 - Colm Flynn & Padraic Fox - Rose Kavanagh
1996-97 - Colm Flynn & Barry McLoughlin - Claire McCarthy
1995-96 - Keith Pigott & John Mc'Elligott - Thorsten Becker
1994-95 - Padraig O'Halloran & Colm Leahy - Barry McLoughlin

Freshers Debate

Prior to the formation of the Debating Union records of the freshers competitions are virtually non-existent. This is primarily because each of the two rival debating societies held several freshers competitions in an effort to encourage freshers to pledge themselves to their society as opposed to the rival. In 1993 alone there were at least 4 separate competitions between the two societies. Under the Debating Union there is only one freshers competition and other speaking needs of freshers are catered for in Workshops away from the pressure of the main session. The Freshers competition is open to all Maiden Speakers (First years, Erasmus, Transfers, Postgrads etc) providing that this is the first year they have debated with a Third Level Institution.

Past Winners

2008-09 Darragh Roche & Una O'Grady
2007-08 - ???
2006-07 - ???
2005-06 - ???
2004-05 - ???
2003-04 - ???
2002-03 - Stuart Wallace
2001-02 - ???
2000-01 - Lynn Fitzsimons
1999-00 - ???
1998-99 - Ken McDonagh
1997-98 - Rose Kavanagh
1996-97 - Caroline Timmons
1995-96 - Thorsten Becker
1994-95 - Barry Mc'Loughlin

Honorary Life Members

The society had 3 types of membership. Ordinary membership is open to all current students of the University of Limerick. All past Auditors who hold office for at least one semester are "Life Members" of the Union. In addition the society can vote to award "Honorary Life Membership" to any individual (including past auditors, ordinary members and non-members).

Dr Edward Walsh President of University from its foundation in 1972 to 1998. In recognition of a number of years of both moral and financial support, including making attendance possible at two World Championships, as well as the magnificent work he has done for the University in general.

Brian O'Farrell For distinguished service to the Society, notably for being the first UL debater to reach the Irish Times Final.

Michael Ryan For immense assistance to UL's development in societies, notably in debating and in particular the achievement of the highest Irish participation at Melbourne Worlds.

Anthony Louden-Connolly For incredibly long and diverse participation in the debating world in the British Isles, on the occasion of his visit in late 1995.

Niamh Lyons In recognition of being a member of the first UL team to "break" at the Worlds and of the first UL team in the semi-final of the Irish Times Competition.

Padraig O'Halloran In recognition of his achievement of winning the Irish Times Team Debate (National Championships) in 1997 (teammate Seamus Doran). Padraig was also individual runner up in the competition in 1995.

Séamus Doran In recognition of his achievement of winning the Irish Times Team Debate (National Championships) in 1997 (teammate Padraig O'Halloran).


  • World Universities Debating Championships
    • Two Limerick teams have reached the knock out stages of the World Championships, both progressing to the Octo-Finals. Diarmuid Scully & Niamh Lyons did so at the Oxford Union in 1992 and Keith Pigott & Michael D. Hourigan at University of Toronto in 2002.
    • Three Limerick judges have judged the knock out rounds. Mike Ryan (Octo-final University of Melbourne 1993) Colm O'Cinneide (Semi-final Ateneo de Manila University 1999) and Colm Flynn (Deputy-Chief Adjudicator, Public Speaking Final and Grand Final Judge at Stellenbosch University 2003, Comedy Final, ESL Final, Masters Final and Main Qtr Final Judge at University of Toronto in 2002, EFL Final and Main Qtr Final Judge at University College Cork in 2009). Nicholas Kearsey also judged the Comedy Final at Deree College, Athens in 1998.
    • Colm O'Cinneide (better known as from UCC/Edinburgh but then a lecturer in Limerick and registered as a Limerick judge) was also a member of the Irish Masters team that won the World Masters competition at Ateneo de Manila University in 1999. Colm Flynn was part of the Irish Masters team at the University of Sydney in 2000.
    • Colm Flynn was Chair of Worlds Council at the 2001 University of Glasgow and 2002 University of Toronto tournaments. He was also Registrar of council at the 2000 tournament in University of Sydney. He was the recipient of the Order of Distinction award at the 2006 World Debating Championships held in University College Dublin. In 2008 he was made an emeritus member of the World Debating Council.
  • Irish Times
    • Séamus Doran and Pádraic Ó Halloran were the first team representing the University to win the Irish Times Debate at Trinity College, Dublin in 1997.
    • Pádraic Ó Halloran was also individual runner up in 1995 as was Brian O'Farrell in 1994.
    • Cathal Kelly was the first Limerick speaker to reach the semi-final round, as an individual speaker (circa 1989).
    • The society hosted the 1993 Irish Times Final and are scheduled to host the 2009 Irish Times Final.
  • European Universities Debating Championship
    • One Limerick team (Ken McDonagh and David Keary) reached the semi-final of the 1999 tournament at Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands and the other team (Michael D. Hourigan and Caroline Timmons) reached the quarter-final.
    • At 2002 Europeans in Haifa again one Limerick team (Tadhg O'Shea and Julian Moore) reached the semi finals while another (Gavin Ward and Eoin O'Culain) reached the quarter-finals.
    • Mark Dowling (2001) and Colm Flynn (1999 and 2005) have served as Grand Final Judges at the Championships. Colm Flynn also judged the ESL final in 2005.
    • The Debating Union submitted a bid at the 2001 Championships in Portorož, Slovenia to host the 2002 event but the Europeans Council chose University of Haifa, Israel to host.
  • Other notable achievements:
    • Keith Pigott was the best speaker in the Oxford IV final of 2000.
    • Keith Pigott & Paddy Buckley won the Cork Invitational IV in 2005
    • Colm Flynn has acted as chief adjudicator at a number of external IVs including Oxford 2002 and Cork 2001 and Deputy Chief Adjudicator at Cambridge 2002 and WUPID (World Universities Peace Invitational Debate) 2007. Mark Dowling was Chief Adjudicator of the National Law Debates in Galway in 2001. Emma Kerins is Deputy Chief Adjudicator of Aberystwyth 2009.
    • Seamus Doran was convenor of the Irish Times in 1999
    • The society won UL society of the year in 1996 and 2002
    • Keith Pigott & Mike Hourigan jointly won the best society individual award in 2001 for their achievements as a debating team that year
    • The society won UL 1996 Society event of the year for its "Irish Divorce Referendum Debate" which was broadcast by NBC in the United States.

Notable alumni

Diarmuid Scully followed his term as Parliamentary Debating Society Auditor with a term as President of University of Limerick Students Union. He became a Limerick City Councillor for Ward 3 in 1999, representing the Fine Gael party. He sought his party's backing for the 2005 term as Mayor. An internal dispute arose which led to Councillor Scully becoming Mayor in July 2005 with the support of other non-Fine Gael councillors. (Councillor Scully's website)

Laura Ryan is a television news journalist for TV3 in Ireland.

Former Auditor John Maguire is a journalist and film critic for The Sunday Business Post newspaper. He also keeps a personal[website][1].

External links


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