(10-19-98) -- Irish President Mary McAleese was on campus Friday to formally open Connolly House and meet with members and friends of the Irish Institute and the Irish Studies Program. Her visit came on the day that David Trimble and Irish Studies Visiting Professor John Hume were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
"The heartbeat of Boston College is Irish indeed," McAleese told a gathering hosted by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, in Gasson Hall's Irish Room Friday evening. Noting the University's strong Irish heritage and that BC founder John McElroy, SJ, was born in her native Northern Ireland, McAleese said Boston College remains active in contemporary Irish affairs.
"Boston College is never content to rest the relationship on kinship or nostalgia," she said. "We're delighted that the relationship between Boston College and Ireland has never been stronger."
She cited the efforts of the Irish Studies Program and the Irish Institute as "providing a leaven to so many aspects of Irish life which factored into the peace process." She also mentioned the work of Alumni Association Executive Director Kathleen O'Toole, who is a member of the commission working to reshape the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
"Never let it be said we take our friends for granted," McAleese said. "May I say how proud the Irish people are of your accomplishments from the bottom of our hearts."
The upbeat mood at the event had been further elevated by the earlier announcement that Trimble and Hume, leaders of Northern Ireland's main Protestant and Catholic political parties, respectively, had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Boston College presented Hume with an honorary degree in 1995 and he has visited BC annually for the past two years as the main lecturer in the Irish Studies course "The Origins of the Ulster Crisis."
Boston College is playing a direct role in the peace process through a new program, launched by the Irish Institute, which will assist members of the new Northern Ireland Assembly in preparing for their roles as leaders in government. The program begins next week when Prof. Marc Landy (Political Science) will travel to Northern Ireland and meet with Assembly members.
"We know that you shared our joy when the historic agreement was made in Northern Ireland last Good Friday. You take pride too in our economic success and you foster strong business links between Ireland and Massachusetts," McAleese told the gathering, which included Acting Gov. Paul Cellucci. "I want to offer our profound appreciation for that and our continued reliance on your support as we enter a new phase in Ireland, but one filled with hope."
At an earlier ceremony in Connolly House, McAleese and Fr. Leahy cut the ribbon formally opening the facility. Connolly House was renovated recently and now houses Irish Studies and the Irish Institute under one roof.
Irish Studies, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year, is widely considered the most comprehensive Ireland-oriented academic program in North America.
In addition to its new program with Northern Ireland Assembly members, the Irish Institute provides business and management training to individuals in the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.
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