The new debating chamber in the UCD Student Centre, which resembles a mini-parliament, has been named in honour of the late Dr Garret FitzGerald, a great statesman, who was twice leader of Ireland as Taoiseach between 1981 and 1987.
Dr FitzGerald both studied and lectured at University College Dublin. He was a true public intellectual deeply committed to the role of the university in society. He also served as Chancellor of the National University of Ireland (NUI).
He was universally popular with students because he was genuinely interested in them, their lives and their views. He always devoted much of his time to intellectual discourse and debate with students and young people. He may have left his lecturing post at University College Dublin in 1973 when he became Minister for Foreign Affairs, but he remained closely connected to UCD.
The UCD Societies Council specially commissioned Elizabeth O’Kane, an award-winning Dublin based sculptor, to produce a bronze bust of the late Dr Garret FitzGerald to be located at the entrance to the new debating chamber named in his honour.
The FitzGerald Chamber is now the home of the UCD Literary & Historical Society (Founded by John Henry Cardinal Newman in 1855) and the UCD Law Society (Established in 1911). Two renowned student societies, synonymous with UCD, that have contributed to public debate in Ireland for well over a century.
“I believe that this event this evening is something that would have touched him [Garret FitzGerald] deeply and one which he would have greatly appreciated,” said Dr Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the NUI, who spoke at the special event.
“It has been one of the great privileges of my life not just to have known Garret but to have been a friend,” he said.
“He was one of the towering figures of Ireland in the second part of the twentieth century.”
“He [Garret FitzGerald] believed in UCD. He saw it as a truly national university. At many times he saw it as a sleeping giant, but always with the potential to contribute to the development not just of the students, but of our country and of our society.”
Garret FitzGerald was a very active participant in the UCD Literary & Historical Society while a student at University College Dublin.
“Throughout his time at UCD, and indeed even while he was Taoiseach, he always supported student societies,” he said.
“I am certain that few things would have pleased Garret so much as the honour he is getting here this evening.”
“To be honoured so strikingly and so spontaneously, in the presence of his family, in the university he loved… by a new generation of students… is something he would truly have cherished.”
Other speakers at the event included: Mr Stephen Whelan, former Chair of the UCD Societies Council; Ms Aifric Nugent, Chair of the UCD Societies Council; and Dr Martin Butler, UCD Vice-President for Students.
Original article posted March 7, 2013 on www.ucd.ie by UCD University Relations.
For more on UCD Law Society visit societies.ucd.ie/law.
For more on UCD Literary & Society visit societies.ucd.ie/literaryhistorical.