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National Secondary School Essay-writing Competiton Awards Ceremony


Secondary school student voice concerns about homelessness crisis and offer solutions

Tara Gilsenan, Róisín Howard and Michael Smollen, Transition Year, Fifth Year and Sixth Year Overall winners with Dr. Michael Griffin, Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, University of Limerick President Professor Don Barry and Lawrence Cleary, Regional Writing Centre, UL


Over 200 secondary school students from across all four provinces of Ireland took part in the 5th Annual National Secondary School Essay-writing Competition organised by the Regional Writing Centre at the University of Limerick.

The UL President, Professor Don Barry, awarded the winning student writers at an awards ceremony held at the University campus on Tuesday 19th May. The competition forms an important component of UL’s commitment to engage with prospective students in the post-primary sector to promote the development of good writing. In his address, Professor Barry stated that writing “is a skill that has value for our students not only while they are here with us but for long after they graduate … almost any employer to whom you speak will tell you that it is those who exhibit the strongest communication and literacy skills who succeed and excel in the workplace. In fact, many employers now list effective communication and writing skills among the most desirable competencies for prospective employees.”

Students in Transition, 5th and 6th year were invited to take a decisive stance on a statement made by Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, founder and president of Focus Ireland:

“Government policies are causing people to be homeless. On one hand, they’re talking about finding housing to house them and on the other hand by not increasing the rent supplement they’re driving people into homelessness.”

Homelessness occupies a special place in the Irish psyche, so it is not surprising that student responses were emotionally stirring, yet well-reasoned. Four of the secondary school students took the position that solving the homelessness crisis the government’s responsibility. Two students took the position that the crisis was the responsibility of charities. Two others defended the idea that both government and charities have some culpability for worsening the situation, arguing that both should come together to rectify the situation. One student, uniquely, viewed homelessness as everyone’s problem and made an impassioned appeal for every Irish citizen to contribute to its resolution.

There were three winners in each category: Transition, 5th and 6th Year. Overall winners in each category were awarded an Apple iPad Air 2. Runners up were awarded All4One vouchers, each valued at €150.00.

Overall winners in each category were Transition year student Tara Gilsenan of Coláiste Oiriall, Co.Monaghan, 5th year student Róisín Howard from Laurel Hill Coláiste, Limerick, and Michael Smollen from Virginia College, Co. Cavan. Runners up in each category were Transition Year students Muireann Tuffrey from Mean Scoil Nua an Leith Triuigh, Co.Kerry, and Aoife Deignan of St.Nathy’s College, Co. Roscommon; 5th Year students Isabelle Tierney from  Mount Anville Secondary School, Dublin, and Alan McLoughlin of St. Mary’s CBS, Co. Kerry; and 6th Year students Joseph Chaplin of Ardscoil Rís, Limerick, and Gareth Jones from St. Peter’s College, Co. Wexford.