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Peter Sutherland Memorial Day

Speech - Peter Sutherland Memorial Day

29 March 2019

Ambassadors, Members of the Judiciary, Honoured Guests…

I am delighted to welcome you to Peter Sutherland Memorial Day – it is wonderful to see so many of you here at UCD for this special occasion and we are particularly honoured by the presence of Peter’s family.

There are probably fewer more appropriate places to be today than here, on Brexit Day that was, to celebrate and remember Peter Sutherland, one of Ireland’s most significant Europeans and certainly one of UCD’s most eminent and high-profile alumni. While few of us would be brave enough to anticipate what may take place with Brexit in the coming weeks, what has become clear over the last few months is Ireland’s unwavering identity as a European country with an outward-looking, global perspective, mirroring the personal and professional values of Peter Sutherland.

While other speakers today will elaborate on his extraordinary contribution to global affairs, it is my privilege to reflect on what Peter Sutherland means to UCD.

In recent weeks, I had occasion to speak to a group of US-based supporters of UCD in Washington DC about the global impact of Cardinal John Henry Newman, the founder of UCD. Newman’s enduring text on the value of higher education ‘The Idea of a University’ remains relevant to this day and continues to inspire educationalists around the world. Newman’s vision for the University was to ‘benefit the wider world’ while encouraging ‘true enlargement of mind’ and education of the ‘whole individual’. It is not known if he thought these ideals would ever be embodied in one individual, multi-faceted student, but this description of Peter Sutherland is uncanny. We are immensely proud to count him among our alumni - a polymath who embodied the core values of the University in an unprecedented manner.

Passionate about the importance of a university education for all, as EU Commissioner for Competition Policy and Education in 1985, he initiated what would become the Erasmus Programme. Since 1987, it has enabled over 9 million students across Europe to travel and study in another EU country. It has given thousands of Irish students, many from UCD, a window on other cultures, including those who may not otherwise be able to afford it. His belief in the importance of diversity, mobility, cross-cultural dialogue and global understanding, which culminated in his final role as UN Special Representative for International Migration, are values that guide UCD’s policies today around student diversity and inclusion and the creation of a global mindset in our graduates.

Particularly proud to be known as the ‘Father of Erasmus’, we hope he would also applaud the School of Law’s new initiative to promote diversity and inclusion for those students who struggle to access and complete their degree due to financial barriers. UCD Sutherland Opportunity, generously supported by Mason Hayes & Curran, as well as other alumni of the School, will provide scholarships, Erasmus support and mentoring for law students on the margins of society. UCD’s status as a University of Sanctuary gives further meaning to the importance of supporting those who seek refuge in Ireland and giving them an opportunity to secure a university education.

This state-of-the art building was made possible by the philanthropic vision and generosity of Peter Sutherland. This followed his endowment of the Sutherland Chair in European Law, occupied today by the Dean of Law, Professor Imelda Maher. His leadership inspired others from the wider legal community to support the new School and, by bestowing his name, he has possibly made an even greater gift to UCD.

Today, the School’s academic stature continues to grow and is now ranked among the top 50 law schools globally. We equip our graduates with the knowledge and skills to be effective law professionals, leaders and citizens of the 21st century that always act according to a set of ethics and in the interest of wider society. We can think of no greater role model for these ideals than Peter Sutherland.

I am now delighted to welcome our keynote speaker, Ambassador William Lacey Swing. A former US diplomat and United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Under-Secretary General, he was Director General of the International Organization for Migration until 2018. During this time, he collaborated closely with Peter Sutherland as UN Special Representative for International Migration.

Thank you.

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