Senior Debating Rules 2018/19

Senior Debating Rules


Debating develops the key skills of:

• Presenting an argument;

• Critically appraising an opposing view; and

• Being able to think clearly and speak persuasively.


A team consists of four members representing their branch or county.


• Counties/regions can enter two teams to the national rounds.

• Counties/regions with three or less clubs as of August 31, 2018, will be allowed to enter a rainbow team consisting of members who are not necessarily all from the same club.

• Counties/regions that have not entered debating in the last three years will be allowed to enter a rainbow team consisting of members from a number of different clubs within the county/ region.


Team members must be 17 years of age or over and under 35 years of age on September 1, 2018. All members of a county winning/representative team can enter the following year’s national competition, unless they win the national final. National winners are ineligible to compete for two years. A maximum of one previous national winner can be on a team at any one time.


Both teams will be seated on stage together. The proposition should sit on the chairman’s right. The leader of the proposition will open the debate and propose the motion.

• Members of the proposition and opposition will speak alternately.

• The leader of the opposition will then summarise the team’s argument, followed by the leader of the proposition.


Motions for debates will be swift-posted to the teams 10 working days before each debate.


Time allowed for the opening address will be six minutes. Each speaker will be allowed six minutes. Time allowed for the summaries will be six minutes. A warning bell will ring one minute before the end of allocated time. Should it be necessary to ring the bell at the end of the time, teams will automatically lose marks at the rate of five marks per minute or part thereof.


• A heckle is defined as a quick spontaneous comment, question or interruption. Acceptable heckling will be allowed from only one member at any one time.

• Only the person with the floor has the right to reply to a heckle.

• There are no additional marks for heckling.

• Heckling is not allowed during summaries.

• A penalty of five marks will be deducted from the teams’ marks for infringement of any of the above rules.

• The Presiding Officer, at his/her discretion, can stop excessive heckling. Any team member that continues to heckle boisterously or double heckles will be penalised by the Presiding Officer at the rate of two marks per offence. A double heckle is defined as follows – two people from the opposing team heckling the speaker at the same time.


There will be three judges who must not communicate with each other. Each judge must independently give a clear decision in favour of one team.

Marking System

Speaker 1

Ability to communicate 30
Layout of arguments 50
Summary 40
Refutation 30
Total 150


Speaker 2

Ability to communicate 30
Content 45
Refutation 25
Total 100


Speaker 3

Ability to communicate 30
Content 45
Refutation 25
Total 100


Speaker 4

Ability to communicate 30
Content 45
Refutation 25
Total 100



The aggregate placing system will determine the winner. If there is a tie, then the team with the most ‘firsts’ will be the winner. If there is still a tie, then total marks will determine the winner. A Best Debater prize is awarded at each national round. The host county is responsible for the individual prizes in this competition.

Closing Date

The closing date for entries to National Office is Wednesday, December 5 2018