Hi! My name is Aisling and I’m a third-year Law with Politics student at UCD. I chose this course because I really wanted to learn how to make a positive change in the world and advocate for the issues that I care about. Outside of my course, I really love volunteering and taking part in student activities, from mock trials and debating to coffee mornings and movie nights. I have been involved with the Literary and Historical (L&H) Society since first year and I have loved every minute of it, so I thought I would share some of my insight on one of the best societies on campus!

What is the L&H?

The L&H was founded alongside the university way back in 1854 by Cardinal John Henry Newman, a man who believed that there was a lot more to university than just studying for your degree. He said that real growth came from a group of people coming together and challenging convention, discussing big ideas and stepping out of their comfort zones in order to confront life’s big questions. This year, the L&H is in its 169th session, so we’ve been around for a long time!

Why Did I Join the L&H?

Every Thursday evening, students, lecturers and guest speakers come together to debate the contentious issues of the day in the purpose-built FitzGerald Debating Chamber. As a first-year student, weekly house debates were a perfect opportunity for me to make new friends. They drew us in with the promise of free pizza and before I knew it, without any prior experience, I competed in the James Joyce Maidens  competition for novice debaters. I made a lot of mistakes, but I really enjoyed the social aspect of debating and meeting so many interesting people. The L&H was incredibly supportive as I worked to improve my debating skills, so I stayed involved and joined the committee as the PRO and later as the Sponsorship & Careers Officer. It’s great to know I’m joining a cohort of alumni that feature recognisable names like James Joyce, Mary Finlay Geoghegan, Dara Ó Briain and Chris O’Dowd! Christy Moore even wrote a song about us.

My Favourite Debate

I’ve spoken in a few house debates over the last few years, but my favourite has been our debate on Article 41.2 of the Constitution. We debated over whether to amend or remove the Article which states that a woman’s place is in the home. I felt incredibly lucky to speak
alongside Senator Pauline O’Reilly, Dr. Mary McAuliffe, Dr Maebh Harding and Barrister Anne Conlin. I became really fascinated with the topic and wrote several legal articles discussing my views on it afterwards, so I was delighted to hear about the upcoming referendum which seeks to replace the Article. It was just one of the many examples where debating tied into what I was learning in class.

Stars in our Eyes

As well as House Debates, the L&H also gives the James Joyce Award to outstanding individuals at the forefront of their fields. The recipients come to address members of the society, and in the past we have invited Dermot Kennedy, Martin Freeman, Will Ferrell, Bill Browder, Noam Chomsky and Neil Gaiman. Last year, I was lucky enough to invite Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) to receive the award, which is still one of my favourite memories. I got to meet him, take some photos, and he even signed my copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone! It’s a memory that I will treasure forever, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the L&H.

The Social Side

Like any student society, we know how to have a fun time. The L&H welcomes students from every course, and runs a wide variety of social events to suit the needs of every member. We have hosted coffee mornings with free tea, coffee and pastries, as well as movie screenings of Barbie and Wonka with free popcorn! We have organised nights out like society balls, boat parties and Bingo Loco where students can go a little crazier after a long day of classes. We also had a bonding trip to Galway and saw Jamie Dornan on the Late Late Show! Whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in-between, there is something for everyone to get involved with and have fun.

Competitions, Networking and Future Careers

Now, it’s not all fun and games. We hold weekly training sessions throughout the year, on novice, intermediate and advanced levels so that anyone can try it out. We organise debating competitions for secondary schools and volunteer our time to judge the competitions, which I find really rewarding. We also participate in several intervarsity competitions across Ireland every year, and our members have also competed in Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Thailand and the UK. Being involved with the L&H is perfect for when I’m applying for internships, as many law firms sponsor the competitions and want students to have extracurriculars alongside their grades. It has helped me to improve my
public-speaking and argumentative skills, which are crucial for law students. It has also broadened my world-view as I’ve learned a lot about topics which I hadn’t considered or didn’t know much about before, simply by being involved and going to the house debates.


Without a doubt, the L&H has been one of my favourite parts about studying in UCD, as the friendships and memories I’ve made will stay with me for much longer than what I learned in my classes on tort law or the political state of Chinese territories. You never know where these opportunities might lead you. I hope to see you in the debating chamber soon!