The 2023/2024 Essay competition is closed. 

Please come back next year to enter. 

University of Limerick Regional Writing Centre announces its thirteenth annual National Secondary School Essay-writing Competition for Transition and 5th-year students. 

The primary purpose of our competition is to give students the opportunity to write persuasively on social issues that are relevant to them in preparation for the argumentative writing they will perform later at third level. In addition, the competition highlights the Regional Writing Centre’s commitment to a life-long learning approach to writing, helping students to develop strategies to become more confident, critical and autonomous writers, able to write persuasively in all contexts, whether academic, professional or personal

The competition requires students to take a decisive stance on the following prompt, explored in an essay of 800-1,000 words: 

According to the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI), 7 in 10 young people are “considering emigration for a better quality of life than in Ireland.”

In response to the figures, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik stated that “Ireland feels like no country for young people.”

“The housing crisis, cost of living, poor pay and working conditions, inadequate public services and a lack of things to do for young people that don’t involve alcohol” are listed among the reasons compelling young people to emigrate (Delmer, 2023).

Do you agree with Bacik’s statement? If you agree, what needs to change to reverse the trend reported by NYCI? If you disagree, how do you explain the trend?

Feel free to find additional sources.

Short list of Winners:

Ornait O'Donoghue, Colaiste Muire Realt na Mara, Crosshaven, Co. Cork

Annabel Bogue, Our Lady's Secondary School, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan

Sophie Maher, Dominican College, Galway, Co. Galway


Lawrence Cleary

Molly McNamara

Jennifer Hall

Celina Papendorf

Stephy Varghese

Nicole Kenihan

Jessie Tierney


Winning essays

The order of the winners is to be announced at the ceremony on May 23, 2024. Prizes will be awarded by Associate Vice President Student Engagement, Dr. Ronni Greenwood


Explore our winning essays below!

Awards ceremony

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Coffee, tea and light snacks at 1 pm in C-1062 Main Building, University of Limerick

Award ceremony at 2pm in C-1061 Main Building, University of Limerick followed by photographs

Finger food and drinks in C-1062 at 2:30 to 3:30 pm followed by tour of campus

General rules

  • Entries must be 800 – 1,000 words long, typed and written in English.
  • The deadline for receipt of all entries is Friday, February 23, 2024, at 5:00 pm.
  • Entries cannot have been previously published.
  • No more than one entry per student will be permitted. 
  • Only entries written by secondary school students currently in Transition Year or 5th Year will be considered. These students must be from schools within Ireland.

Instructions for submission

Please, e-mail an electronic copy of your submission to

Please, mention the words “essay competition” in the subject line of your e-mail.

Please, note that no indication of your identity should appear on the pages of the electronic copy of your essay. 

Along with the electronic copy of your essay, please attach a completed identification sheet which can be downloaded below. It is important that if you are shortlisted we are able to contact you.

Download Identification sheet

Essay writing criteria

The criteria on which judgement is based are found below. The adjudicators’ verdicts are final and no correspondence shall be entered into regarding individual competition entries. Only winners will be notified.

The Regional Writing Centre reserves the right to publish winning entries on our website. The shortlisted winners will be sent a Media Release Form by e-mail, giving us permission to do so. 

Winners will be announced on Friday, April 12, 2024, and prizes will be presented at an awards ceremony at the University of Limerick on Thursday, May 23, 2024.

The overall winner of this National competition will receive a high-end Android tablet, while the two runners-up will receive a €100 One4All voucher each. 

Criteria for Evaluating Winning Essays

1. The writer approaches the prompt from a unique perspective

  • The writer addresses the prompt.
  • The writer outlines some relevant issues and takes a stance on the issues outlined.
  • The writer’s position might be unique, perhaps risky, but...
  • …the writer makes a compelling case for that position, using valid and reliable evidence to support the position taken.

2. Well-organised argument

  • There is a logical progression of ideas (argumentative/conceptual framework) that supports the position taken.
  • There is a clear and consistent focus on the issues raised by the prompt/question. 
  • There is an absence of irrelevant or extraneous material and repetition. 

3. Appeals are compelling

  • Appeals are made to an educated general audience. 
  • Appeals are made to readers’ sense of reason, but appeals to other senses are also entertained, such as the readers’ sense of what is just, outrageous or immoral. (However, the writer shouldn’t assume that the readership is of one mind about what is moral or just or reasonable.)

4. The position taken and the claims made are well-supported

  • The writer demonstrates a capacity to consistently relate relevant material (newspaper articles, studies, books, interviews, etc. that are in the public domain) to the argumentative framework. 

5. The writer is respectful of alternative positions

  • The defence accounts for alternate views, but provides a compelling rebuttal in support of the writer’s own position.

6. Grammatically and mechanically sound

  • The written style (grammar, spelling, punctuation and sentence construction) does not inhibit the reader’s understanding of the argument or its claims, the support offered to justify the claims or any other warrants or grounds that justify the claims and the conclusions.

7.  First place is distinguished from the runners-up by:

  • The degree to which a persuasive original argument has been developed. 
  • The depth and sophistication of the argument’s framework. 
  • The level of familiarity with/understanding of relevant social issues and implications