Skip navigation

University College Dublin Logo

Advanced Search

UCD News

Nuacht UCD

Posted: 04 April 2008

<< Back to Story

Taoiseach marks 10th Anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

UCD President, Dr Hugh Brady pays tribute to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at UCD’s Institute of British-Irish Studies conference to mark the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Distinguished colleagues and friends, it does behove me to say at the outset that this is a truly wonderful occasion – did we ever think, so many of us, as we envisaged the many possibilities of our individual and collective futures, that we would be attending, and in UCD’s case hosting, a 10th Anniversary Conference celebrating an agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland?  For their work and wisdom throughout the past decade and particularly in the organisation of this conference, I pay tribute to Professor John Coakley and his colleagues in UCD’s Institute for British-Irish Studies – ad multos annos, John.

Equally, while it falls to me now to introduce one man, let me take this brief moment please to salute the efforts of so many public and behind-the-scenes figures who worked so hard for so long to bring peace in Northern Ireland. We are and continue to be in your debt.

If it hadn’t been done already, I might well now go on to say that ‘this is not a time for sound-bites, but the hand of history is upon us’.  What I will say is that I hope you, distinguished conference delegates, will understand if I say that, for me, this is an occasion tinged with sadness as it is likely to be the last time that I have the opportunity as UCD President to welcome formally to UCD, An Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern T.D.

I will say immediately, Taoiseach, that there will always be a welcome for you at UCD. I dare say that you will get the same message throughout this island, a neighbouring island and larger land-masses east and west in the days and weeks ahead.

My thoughts go back, inevitably, to the first time I welcomed you formally to the campus, in the context of our UCD150 celebrations in November 2004, when you did us the honour of opening the UCD William Jefferson Clinton Centre for American Studies.  In a characteristically visionary initiative, the Clinton Centre was funded by the government which you led, in recognition of President Clinton’s contribution to the peace process.  Is there not a certain symmetry then that we find ourselves today in the Clinton Auditorium, discussing a climactic moment in that process? 

Shortly afterwards I had the pleasure of accompanying you on your trade mission to China. It was an eye opener for me to see how enthralled the Chinese were with the Irish success story, the high esteem in which our leader was held and the doors that he opened for Irish business – all as a result of our Asia Strategy put in place by An Taoiseach who saw the importance of Asia to Ireland’s future development years before most others did.

I remember distinctly the Taoiseach addressing and engaging with a packed auditorium of students at UCD’s partner institution, the prestigious Fudan University in Shanghai, and one enthralled interpreter saying to me ‘He is so charismatic – he is like Clinton’! And rumour had it that he attended constituency clinics in Drumcondra within hours of returning to Dublin (not quite ‘from the Great Wall to the North Wall’ – but close enough!).

These are personal memories, but I think you will all agree that, like no other politician, it is the genius of Bertie Ahern that he has combined and fused so successfully the personal and the political, the local and the global.

Bertie is a man of vision and a man of action – just consider three examples: the peace process, Ireland’s role and influence in Europe and Asia and Ireland’s Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation.

He is a man of peace who built bridges where, previously, counterparts would have hesitated to look for outline planning permission. 

He is a man who saw the opportunity for a small country such as Ireland to serve as an honest broker and key influencer in the European project and who, as I mentioned above, was a decade ahead of his international counterparts in appreciating the emerging economic importance of Asia.

As with his keen appreciation that peace has to be secured as well as delivered, so in the case of economic prosperity, the Taoiseach has appreciated like few others that, to secure that prosperity, we must invest in science and technology research and development.  He is the man who gave us, early in his first term as Taoiseach, the Programme for Research in Third-Level Institutions – a groundbreaking partnership with Chuck Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies (whose support of IBIS I should also acknowledge today).  Later in that same term, the Taoiseach gave us Science Foundation Ireland and in his second term, he drove through the Strategy for Science, Technology and Innovation.  These three initiatives combined should, given the appropriate ongoing support, serve to secure the legacy of that prosperity which Bertie Ahern did so much to establish.

There is so much more that could be said: I pass over with briefest of passing mentions of his domestic political achievement in becoming both our youngest and our second longest-serving Taoiseach.

A man of peace, a man of prosperity and progress, a man of vision – a man who walked with Kings but, emphatically, never lost the common touch, a man who combines the best of global leader and true Dub – indeed, to coin a phrase, a Global Dub, - friends -  I give you, An Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern.

<< Back to Story

>> More News and Events
<< Back to Home

Taoiseach marks 10th Anniversary of Good Friday Agreement