Dara Tuinstra (12) was rewarded with a €500 book voucher for herself and a library worth €7,500 for her school, Gorey Educate Together, after winning the national final at RTÉ studios in Dublin on Friday.
The contestants were asked by host Ryan Tubridy to spell a broad selection of words from the dictionary, and could ask for their definition or for them to be used in a sentence as an aid.
The final started off at a relatively easy pace as the four provincial winners were asked to spell words including ‘pastry’ and ‘ocean’, before it stepped up a notch with trickier words such as ‘acrylic’, ‘annihilate’ and ‘appropriate’ catching the three runners-up out.
Dara put her talent for spelling down to practice. “I read a lot,” she said, adding that JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins were her favourite authors.
More than 40,000 students competed in the Spelling Bee with 1,100 schools participating in the contest, heats of which began last September.
The winners from schools nationwide competed in county finals in February before the finals in the four provinces were held in May and June.
The competitors from the four provinces travelled to RTÉ on Friday for the final with many classmates joining them to offer support.
The three runners-up – from Galway, Antrim and Tipperary – each won a library for their schools worth €3,000 and a €250 voucher for themselves.
Spelling Bees are hugely popular in the US but the idea is just taking off Ireland. The Eason Spelling Bee is in its fifth year, and is the only competition of its kind in the country.
“We’re delighted to be the first to introduce something like this and to see it grow and blossom over the last five years,” said Brendan Corbett of Eason.
Tubridy said he was pleased to see children getting involved “because we have to spread the word that books are our friends, words are good, and spelling is nice to have if you can”.
He added: “Everyone walks out of here a winner.”
Irish Times (online edition, 19/06/2015)