Well, I've written about how much I love debates several times on this blog, and tonight I got to participate in one. It was TV3's "People's Debate" with Vincent Browne, where there is no panel of guests and the audience simply debate amongst themselves, moderated by the host. The motion was 'Is Ireland homophobic?'
It was fun and exciting, but it was also scary. It cured me of any conceit about my debating skills. I'd like to think I'm fairly handy when it comes to written debate (though perhaps I'm being conceited there, too), but I did feel quite out of my depth in an instantaneous encounter like this one. There were a handful of people who really carried my side of the debate, and I admired their quick-wittedness and their ability to resist rhetorical and emotional pressure. I know I wouldn't have been as fluent.
Though I had my hand up for most of the show, I only got to make one contribution. I was surprised (but pleased) that it got a round of applause. Vincent Browne challenged me (as he challenged everyone) with a follow-up question, and I was quite relieved when another member of the audience butted in and took over for me.
The atmosphere was mostly good-humoured. But there were a few pro-same-sex marriage people who were really out to draw blood, especially when it came to the Catholic Church. There was quite an acrimonious running exchange between one gentleman in front of me (who believed the Church was homophobic etc. etc. etc.) and another gentleman behind me-- the gentleman behind me played rather a unique role, being an openly gay man who is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage. I'd seen him on TV before, talking on this same topic, and tonight he engaged in some familiar banter with Vincent Browne. When filming was over, I reached out to shake his hand and to thank him for his courage. "Thank you", he responded, seeming rather surprised. (There were a lot of people there who seemed to know each other, and quite a lot of people who Vincent Browne seemed to know by name.)
Brendan O'Regan, the TV and radio correspondent for The Irish Catholic newspaper, was seated two seats to my left. I recognised him from the photo on his column. I introduced myself and mentioned this blog, and he asked me its name as he was leaving (and wrote it down!). So, if you're reading, Brendan-- hi!
The gentleman sitting to my right was a historian who was mostly interested in the matter of school patronage-- he didn't think that the State should fund education at all, unless I'm representing him wrong. I had a pleasant chat with him.
All in all, a worthwhile experience. And I managed to find the studio!
As I came out, I got a text from my friend and fellow Chesterton Society founder Angelo, who told me he was praying for me. I was very touched.
So, thanks be to God that I didn't disgrace myself (I hope), and that the Christian view of marriage, religious freedom and Catholic education had some more eloquent defenders than I. It can be viewed on the TV3 Real Player here. My contribution, such as it is, comes at 1:03:36.