Mary Robinson spoke to about 200 faculty, students and staff in Gasson 100 at an event sponsored by the Center for Irish Management. Many of those in attendance were connected with the CIM, the Irish Studies Program and other Irish-related organizations on campus.
Robinson was introduced by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, who noted the appropriate setting, saying Gasson 100, the "Irish hall at Boston College, was built by Irish immigrants." He lauded Robinson's efforts to reach out to people of Irish heritage around the world.
President of Ireland Mary Robinson greets students following her remarks in Gasson 100 on Oct. 7.
"President Robinson is a strong role model for the progressive Ireland of today," Fr. Leahy said. "She is strong with both the north and the south, as well with the Irish diaspora."
Robinson, who was elected president in 1990, said the Irish "value a sense of Irish studies at different places around the world. It is understandable why it is so strong here in Boston."
The strength of Irish culture internationally, she said, means that "a sense of identity has been maintained," despite the fact that "people have had very difficult times in our history, particularly those from 150 years ago [during the Irish potato famine, which resulted in large-scale emigration to America].
"The sense of self" among the Irish and those of Irish heritage, she said, "has come into a maturity."
Robinson said those who identify themselves with Ireland are required to ask hard questions when examining the nation's history and current situation.
"We need critical, independent-minded assessment," she said. "We should have the strength of character to examine our heritage critically.
"What you are doing here in Irish Studies is very relevant to what's going on in Ireland today," said the president, who recalled attending public lectures at BC while a student in Boston. "I'm delighted that you're [pursuing] Irish studies here."
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