Seolann an tUachtarán Ionad Barr Feabhais Jean Monet, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Baile Átha Cliath

Déa 28th Már, 2019 | 18:30
suíomh: (Baile Átha Cliath) Amharclann William Fry, Scoil Dlí Sutherland, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Baile Átha Cliath

(Baile Átha Cliath) Amharclann William Fry, Scoil Dlí Sutherland, Ollscoil na hÉireann, Baile Átha Cliath

Thursday, 28th March, 2019

‘Making a new Mind for Europe - Of the Discourse that we need’ - Speech at the launch of the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in the New Political Economy of Europe

UCD, Thursday, 28th March, 2019

If we now question why some seek solace in the simplistic or the bombastic – or, indeed, seem captured by apathy – we must acknowledge that for too long they, the publics, have been presented with too few meaningful alternatives.

A chairde,

Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil libh as ucht an fíorchaoin fáilte a d’fhearadh sibh romham. Táim buíoch chomh maith don Ollamh Colin Scott agus An Dr. Aidan Regan as ucht an méid atá ráite acu díreach anois i mo leith agus as ucht an cuireadh a bheith in bhur dteannta anocht don ócáid súntasach seo i bhforbairt agus i ndul chun cinn Coláiste na Ollscoile Bhaile Átha Cliath. 

May I begin by thanking Professor Colin Scott and Dr. Aidan Regan for their generous words of welcome and may I offer all at UCD my warmest congratulations on the designation of this institute as a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence in the New Political Economy of Europe. I would also like thank Professor Imelda Maher for accommodating us this evening. Most of all, I would like to welcome you, the students, who have turned out this evening for our brief reflection.

It is always a pleasure, and I have always found it to be an inspiration, to return to speak in a university setting. As someone with a deep interest in the development of political economy as an academic discipline, I am particularly pleased to have been invited to launch this Centre and to have the opportunity of welcoming an initiative that will assist the advancement of new thinking, new teaching and new research in European political economy for we are indeed in need of a new discourse, a discourse that will enable us to develop a new mind for Europe, a version of a European Union that can carry the best of our inherited intellectual instincts and the better instincts of our imagination for the future, one in which the citizens of a real Union of European equals might find resonance, find fulfilment of the self and the society.

The Centre’s stated mission “to re-engage the street and advance a critical debate on the future of European integration” can be a vital part of the evolution of academic thought on many of the significant challenges which face the European Union and on the urgent need to re-engage with the European street. 

This will require, I suggest, a drawing on the related disciplines of politics, economics and, may I suggest, ethics, for is it not a reasonable question to ask of the stuff and nature of that which it is proposed to achieve integration, of what is its nature, for whom and with what consequence for lives shared?

I use the term ‘discourse’ very deliberately for in the present chaotic atmosphere in which we now find ourselves as we experience the consequences of decision-taking without a preceding adequate, informing, not to speak of balanced, debate as would inform choice, the high price in institutional, even democratic terms, are so glaringly obvious.

For it is surely worth bearing in mind that in the history of Europe and its member nations nearly every significant change in policy of a political economic kind has been preceded by what Duncan Weldon has recently called “a battle for ideas”. Dare I suggest that politics had its closest connection to the street when such a battle for ideas could find a resonance in the lives and needs of those on the street. It was also, of course, a powerful version of democracy in action that the outcomes of political economy could be the ground upon which political choices would be fought out and policy decisions would be made. 

What we need now as we reflect on the future of the European Union, and indeed our global inter-dependent future is a sufficiently wide debate on such forms of political economy as can address new challenges – internal ones such as the loss of social cohesion within and between member states of our European Union, and external ones such as responding to climate change, sustainability, new trade wars, unregulated aspects of a global financialised economy, applications of technology for other than universal benefit and a growing and deepening inequality, reflected in the concentration of wealth, and a growing application of capital for speculative rather than productive purpose.

The attraction of speaking here today is, then, not just in terms of the opportunity it offers to me for engagement with bright and enquiring minds but also because of the opportunity it provides to stress again the essential and urgent role which universities, as dedicated spaces of discourse, can, and must, play in assisting the understanding of the complexity of our world. 

UCD has a very fine tradition in European academic research and your new Centre will add to that in fostering an understanding of the European Union – its origins, its ambitions – achieved and not achieved, its unity and its diversity, its strengths and its imperfections. The work you already have underway is of very practical importance for the future development of the Union and for the well-being of its peoples. I refer, for example, to Dr. Regan and Alison Johnston’s relatively recent consideration of the capacity for integration of diverse models of capitalism within the project of integration within the European Union. 

However, I want, myself, to provoke a deeper question – what do we mean when we speak of a Union? A Union of what? 

If we are to give consideration to that deeper question it will require of us a consideration of not merely pragmatic considerations of the present but the taking into account, I suggest, of those ethical impulses that drove some of the best minds, at times of a great vulnerability, while the horror of war was still present in their consciousness to reflect and speak of such a Union as would obliterate the prospect of war.

I have written elsewhere that I believe that one of the most morally compelling visions of European integration emerged in the Manifesto of Ventotene, conceived, in 1941, by members of the Italian resistance movement from their island prison, Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi. Their manifesto is a remarkable clarion call for a free and united Europe, one dedicated to disarming the worst passions of what had become a distorted European nationalism. 

They pronounced, inter alia, that such an ideal could only be achieved, and would only be preserved, if it was capable of continuing, I quote, “the historical process of the struggle against social inequalities and privileges”. This document is now rightly considered one of the founding treatises of the European Union and its lasting relevance may be seen in the European Parliament building itself which bears Spinelli’s name. It is a manifesto too, and it is important, which also attests to the “permanent value of the spirit of criticism’. 

It is so fitting of course that your Centre will bear the name of that most distinguished of Europeans, Jean Monnet. The remarkable thing about Jean Monnet is that he is not simply a cherished curiosity of the past but rather that his thinking can be invoked as a deeply relevant beacon for the future.

In the recent paper I gave at the Brexit Institute at DCU, I stated that I agree with Perry Anderson that it is of no small significance that social considerations came first in Jean Monnet’s thinking. In that paper I went on to recall how the International Labour Organisation had been asked to appoint a group of independent experts led by the Swedish economist Bert Ohlin to prepare a report on the social effects of closer European co-operation. 

The 1956 Ohlin Report recognised a fear that a reduction in tariffs and the gradual movement towards a tariff-free customs area, when combined with the free movement of capital, would lead to an agglomeration of investment in existing centres of industry to the disadvantage of those countries with higher social labour standards and that those countries would find it hard to raise from such standards. In a word, many saw the danger of the existing Social Floor, so hard-fought for in the Six, becoming a social ceiling. 

The Ohlin Report recommended provisions for the free movement of labour, equivalence between paid holiday schemes and the principle of equal pay for men and women to be included in the Treaties.

I reference this to make the point that what are now Articles 157 and 158 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union were a reflection of the politics that prevailed at the time, that held a hegemony. Politics does matter, and it is undeniable then, too, that the political context that has prevailed since the 1980s cannot be separated from our present circumstances, including a reduced role for the state, the loss of social cohesion, the alienation of the street, the loss of resonance in terms of economy with the citizens of the European Union.

The summons to give prominence to social policy, as a principle of integration for the Union, is I suggest, as appropriate today as it was when first articulated by Jean Monnet. It is inextricably linked to the aspiration of ensuring peace, stability, inclusion and sustainable economic life on the wider European continent. 

The remarkable achievement which is the European Union of today is a worthy one - a Union in which, to borrow Robert Schuman’s phrase, war is “not merely unthinkable but materially impossible”. It serves as a reminder too that the European Union in invoking shared possibilities is the very antithesis of any amplification of fear within nations and peoples. This is ground we must hold.

Jean Monnet’s imagination and determination made possible what must to others have seemed impossible at the time, a coming together of peoples and traditions in an unprecedented Union.

The circumstances of the time, these founding thinkers felt, demanded a new mind for Europe that would go beyond the disastrous competition of anti-democratic, insatiable imperial tendencies that had called forth and delivered wars, wars that would be at the cost of the lives of the young, the poor, so much more than the affluent.

The new alternative project can best be summarised, perhaps, by quoting the words of one of the founding fathers of what came to be known as the European project. Jacques Delors who talked of the necessary alliance between 

“competition that stimulates; co-operation that strengthens; 
and solidarity that unites.” 

This ambition to strike a unique balance between social cohesion, economic competition and freedom, and today no doubt he would have added to it, a sensitivity to ecological issues, is what drives so many Europeans of all ages to aspire to a European Union that might reach a full and inviting potential.

However, we have entered a period when, I would say – and not for the first time in many years – the future shape of the European Union has become a matter of dispute and often ill-tempered debate. In the ongoing and lingering shadow of Brexit and of social forces which have given rise to so much doubt across Europe, the challenges of the next decade simply cannot be met with a re-issuing of an invitation to a new generation of, and revamped version, of the old orthodoxies. 

The refurbishing of what has gone out of balance in failing models will be insufficient. For example, it is clear as research such as that to which I have made reference already shows, that the existing aspirations to integration cannot accommodate, without contradiction, such diverse mixed models of capital, not to speak of such measures as would retain cohesion as a major aim, thus they are certainly not capable of restoring a sense of authenticity, resonance or meaning to a citizenship of the European street. 

A new mind for Europe is required, which requires a casting aside of failing assumptions within inadequate models. It requires new symmetries between the social, the economic, the cultural and the ethical.

These symmetries, if they are to be achieved, will require changes in the institutional architecture of the Union. Yet if the intellectual and political contribution of the Union’s Members is simply one of reaction and adjustment to a wild unregulated globalisation the prospects for such are poor. The space for the new institutional architecture and the role of intellectual work will have to be fought for. 

It is also a question which time will not allow me to deal with here in an adequate fashion as to whether the massively increased realm of the unaccountable at global level, the forms of financialised capital, its success in defeating international accountability, may make democracy itself impossible. The starkness of my reservation as to prospects suggests the urgency of the legitimation crisis that has now begun to beckon.

Social cohesion is fracturing as inequalities in wealth, power and income are deepening, as labour becomes more precarious and our societies become increasingly divided between what is often lazily described as ‘the lucky’ and the ‘left out’, those on the street and those behind gated communities, between those who can access highly paid employment and those left to struggle on zero-hour contracts. 

Within the European Union, cohesion between the Member States has also declined, creating, I suggest again, a problem of connection and legitimacy with the European street, as we have allowed ourselves to become divided by a common, one size fits all macro-economic policy framework which continues to pit creditor against debtor, and those with trade surpluses against those without, those in the North against those in the South. It is difficult to see the ‘sharing’ a Union implies in the defence of asymmetrical advantages that flowed from the impatient establishment of monetary union. 

Yet, there are challenges within on which we could co-operate, yet bring a Union into existence, such as one that inspired the thinking of the visionaries of Ventotene. I refer to the opportunities to address together our responses to climate change, the forms of growth we need to change including the imbalance between nature and an economic form that is reminding us that our planet is not insatiable, forms of economic life and practice that assumed an unquestioned form of assumed infinite accelerated growth, far beyond efficiency, and which if sustainability is ever to be achieved, must be questioned.

The unprecedented accumulation of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere – a legacy of a mere two centuries of industrial civilisation which now threatens a four and a half billion-year-old planet, whose human population is now most vulnerable to, and as yet unprepared for, the catastrophic consequences of climate change, with all of the devastating implications that arise for the displacement of people, involuntary migration, the degradation of the environment and the eruption of new conflicts over diminishing natural resources – must concern us all.

In those times of hubris, of uncritical pursuit of ever-accelerating growth without consideration as to consequence, of silent toleration of powerful elite opposition to regulation, the space for any pluralist discourse became narrow. Many policy makers, shapers and takers, were ensnared in a single paradigm of thought – an extreme hegemonic theory of the market which was too readily accepted as some form of inevitability, an unavoidable achievement of modernity. It was a discourse from which the voice of the street was not merely neglected but excluded. Politics was rendered servile or near impotent in service to what was ever more abstract and unaccountable.

It found its extreme expression in the assumption that there was no area of life in which the optimum circumstances could not be provided from the market place. Previous egalitarian discourses lost their space. The concept of the public world was now out of fashion and in so many circles could not now be heard. To speak of redistribution was to be regarded as having been stuck in the past.

The models within which we have struggled, favoured concentration in ownership, unregulated accumulation of wealth and both of those often were achieved by the privatisation of what had previously been public assets. Such a version of modernity would not find any contradiction either when it would be suggested as unavoidable, in the socialisation of private speculative debt – a debt that had not been the result of the action of the public but rather of private speculative investors and their institutions.

The accountability gap that has opened-up between the practice, form, assumptions and demands of the economy and the experience of citizens is capable of creating a legitimacy crisis. It is much more than a defective communications problem. 

Of course, a rectification would be assisted by having a debate as to the ideas that should guide public policy. However, the European Union’s experience at decision-making level has not been one of drawing on its intellectual or philosophical traditions, of privileging pluralist discourse, or of inviting its publics to such, the timescales of such do not appeal to those who celebrate the opportunities of transacting capital, speculatively rather than productively, in ever-shorter versions of real time.

As the speed of capital transfer becomes ever-more fast and mysterious the uncomprehending publics are driven in their alienation to become ‘mute’ as Professor Hartmut Rosa puts it in his recent work “‘mute’ in the face of what is presented to them, and sadly too easily perceived as ‘unknowable’”.

If we now question why some seek solace in the simplistic or the bombastic – or, indeed, seem captured by apathy, or have begun to even speak of the death knell of participatory democracy – we must acknowledge that for too long they, the publics, have been presented with too few meaningful alternatives as would check what was unaccountable, challenge elite interpretation of what need not be made complex, beyond the capacity of public understanding.

Many of the underlying assumptions of the dominant narrative were insufficiently contested by scholars and institutions of learning, whose own structures were now to become ever-more vulnerable to the dictates and the demands of the market. Alternative perspectives from critical scholarship were disregarded or indeed sometimes ridiculed. 

When the most recent global financial crisis came, the street bore the brunt of the failures to pursue alternative modes of thought. The pain on the street was compounded by a sense of exclusion from the decision-making around the complex, often technical, efforts to stem the calamitous tides. 

This was not, of course, a uniquely European experience, but, under severe strain, many on the street perceived a slow unravelling of the solidarity upon which they understood the European Union to have been based. This apparent privileging of a limited narrow version of an economic union, one which, unlike that which the Lisbon Treaty might have suggested, had offered parity of esteem between competitiveness and cohesion, has had profound consequences for social cohesion, from which, I would argue, European unity is still reeling. 

A dangerous vacuum has emerged among the mute and excluded, available for exploitation, for filling with old prejudices of hate, fictionalised difference, fears and abuse of media. 

This image of a crisis-ridden Europe I have described is far removed from the conception of a shared Union, such a Union as had been conceived from the cataclysm of the Second World War. 

The Union of Jean Monnet and his contemporaries, after all, drew in its time from a rich heritage of scholarship, philosophy and the most generous impulses of European tradition, as the founders sought to lay the foundations for a lasting peace. It was a peace not mentioned for rhetorical flourish, but which sought to be built not just on capital or markets, but also on the vindication of the fulness of the human experience, informed by philosophy and leading to fundamental economic, social and cultural rights. 

Too often, as we look to the future, we fail to adequately appreciate the rich but diverse roots of the European project. As we seek to find a new mind for Europe, out of the ashes of our present threatening fragmentation, there is now a pressing need to recall the rich infusion of ideas and ideals upon which our Union was sought to be built. 

The European Union offered to you now as young intellectual workers as material for not only your reflection but for achievement, completion, as students of political economy as material, is indeed far from perfect. Its problems too are beyond the economic, beyond what is quantifiable. There is a yearning for authenticity to which you must respond, I suggest. 

As one looks to the European street, there is an inescapable sense of disconnect between the needed fresh visionary proposals that risk being dismissed as rhetoric but are relevant and necessary if the lived experience of the most disenfranchised are to be addressed. It is, and always will be, insufficient to keep an academic distance. It may seem to those on the European street, as Michael Longo and Philomena Murray have suggested, that “the European Union’s future no longer seems to be informed by the vision of the past.” 

There is, therefore, an urgent need not just to re-engage with the street, but to re-engage with what it means to be European and what we want for its future. It demands a revival of the concept of social justice, of the social contract, of the common good – which for too long has been absent from our discourse. 

We are seeing evidence of its gradual rediscovery in new critical theory and I welcome it. In particular, for example, in the new work of such scholars as Professor Hartmut Rosa who has been developing the concept of ‘resonance’ and developing an interdisciplinary approach to a public sociology of the common good. There are also ever louder calls coming from civil society for ‘inclusive growth’ and for policies to address inequality. It is a time to seize these new opportunities for a better living, sustainable living.

The European Union today also faces a unique opportunity and responsibility to assert or, where necessary, reassert its founding values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law in a world in which those values are increasingly challenged. The experience of solidarity in Europe must be, I suggest, the foundation on which our Union’s external action is built. 

For the academic community, it demands, for example, a response that moves beyond the limited approach to the teaching of economics that has pervaded in recent decades towards new interdisciplinary, and pluralist, theoretical frameworks that can make connections between the lives of our citizens, the economy, society, culture, ecology, and policy. Our work in education together must aim to help people make sense of the world. It must be of a quality that will withstand scrutiny. It must, as this Centre offers to do, turn its attention to the difficult and often neglected questions that are contained within considerations as to the future of European integration.

I believe the issues of contemporary Europe are incapable of resolution without a significant paradigm shift in intellectual work, work that will inevitably informs policy and political choice. Pessimism sadly, is a feature of the contemporary work of some of the most distinguished scholars who have been contributing their intellectual abilities towards understanding the current dilemma of legitimacy in which the European Union now finds itself – scholars such as Jürgen Habermas and Wolfgang Streeck.

Yes, there are undoubtedly challenges, but there are opportunities too, and, while the appeal of such writers may have in recent times the aspect of an increasing desperation, yet even out of despair, those such as Habermas continue to offer strategies that are available for co-operation between different member states of the Union, such as a redefinition of ‘subsidiarity; new forms of assistance in reconnecting with European Citizens, for renewing the European vision and thus offering hope to the most vulnerable, and in the interim there are experiments that may come from such areas of theory as New Institutional Economics.

Last year, I posed a number of questions which I believe need to be answered in any debate regarding the future direction of our Union: Can the macro-economic framework of the European Union sanction and protect a diversity of models, both in terms of the welfare state and alternative economic models? Can the formulation of monetary policy accommodate such difference? 

Can the rules of the internal market yield where they can, and surrender when they must, to the demands of labour? How do we resolve what has become an apparent clash between our fundamental values and principles – such as solidarity and a commitment to social justice – and parts of what I have said in the past might be referred to as the ‘Economic Constitution’ of the Union? 

These are questions, I repeat, which cannot be answered within the frame of the old orthodoxies. Neither can they be neglected, except at great cost. Such questions are no call to despair. History is littered with the failures of certainties abandoned, resilience of peoples, and the introduction and accommodation of new realities. 

The genius of Jean Monnet was to create institutions which he knew could be mended, even bended, in the light of events, to cope with the succession of crises the Union has had to weather over the last 60 years. I remain confident that a proper, broad and inclusive discourse can help us too to find the meaningful and lasting alternatives that are much longed for in our universities, in our parliaments, across our institutions, and, I believe, on the street.

Respect for the search for, and articulation of, new perspectives will produce alternatives – policy options – never inevitabilities. Behind each option will lie a series of implications for the citizen about which we must be ever vigilant. At their best, these policy options will show solidarity with the human condition. They will support human dignity; addressing issues around the future of work, seeing its significance far beyond a source of income for consumption, insecurity of housing and health, and the preservation of our increasingly fragile planet. 

To create the global intellectual capacity to respond to these questions, it is clear that we must re-imagine the way we teach and research economics. I have spoken many times of the international failings in the teaching of economics. When I spoke in the United States some years ago I spoke of how Economics 101 in the United States commences its teaching of the subject at perfect competition, leaving students with a shrunken and shrivelled picture of the history of economics. 

If the global financial crisis has taught us anything, it is that a pluralist scholarship is required, one that students are entitled to expect and be offered, one which can more properly critique our recent and not-so-recent history and properly critique and anticipate the social and economic world in which we live and which we seek to change for shared human benefit. It is not any mere normative option to be vaguely recognised. It is better economics resonant of the finest minds in the history of political economy.

The history of thought after all suggests that even established economic thinking, when blended with some of the more contemporary work, married to the evolution of philosophical thinking can provide, as it were a trail of breadcrumbs, into previously unheralded spaces where we might discover the answers to some of these questions and the solutions to some of the most intractable challenges facing the world today.

Let us recall that “The Great Transformation”, written by Karl Polanyi, was first published in 1944, not long after the Manifesto of Ventotene. The book celebrates its 75th birthday this year, but still resonates with me because it challenged the understanding of the meaning of economics, thought up to that point to be the logic of rational action and decision-making, as a rational choice between the alternative uses of scarce resources.

Polanyi’s theory of substantivism in its time critiqued and went beyond rational decision-making and scarcity, referring instead on the fulness of how humans make a living interacting within their social and natural environments. 

“Economics is the way society meets material needs.”

Gunnar Myrdal’s work is, of course, another seminal example of engaged research. 

It is such departures as they made into new thinking that might revitalise the study of economics and thus help to provide new political solutions in our fractured society. Such a new approach must, of course, in order to be relevant today, give adequate space to gender as well as equality in economics.

In that regard I have been so very greatly heartened, and inspired too, by the recent work of some distinguished women in the economics field. At a recent event at Áras an Uachtaráin to celebrate International Women’s Day, I spoke of the new ground being broken by Irish women, paving the way for new generations of women who will use their talent and creativity in the pursuit of a better world and an enhanced future for all our citizens.

We know that women engaged in research have the advantage of drawing inspiration from their experiences as women, that women frequently use that experience when choosing the area of research they wish to pursue and the questions they choose to ask. We also know that a female perspective can make a profound difference, 
even when researching issues that may seem entirely unrelated to gender.

May I offer just two brief examples of what I see as exciting new emancipatory work.

Sylvia Walby in her book Crisis has offered an invaluable set of linked insights in her writing of the effect on society of the financial crisis, which in turn led to the economic crisis of recession and unemployment, and caused a fiscal crisis over government deficits, and which then through the reply of austerity; that was offered as policy, in turn evolved into a political crisis, one that threatens to become a democratic crisis. 

Borne unevenly, the effects of all of these crises have exacerbated gender and class inequalities. She identifies the hidden gendered causes and consequences of these crises and suggests, for example, that gender inequality in access to financial decision-making is to the detriment of economic development because of the inefficiencies that this creates. The conflict between democracy and capitalism, she suggests, can only be resolved through a deepening of democracy. 

In The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy, Mariana Mazzucato explores the concept of value today, showing how value extraction is now more highly rewarded than value creation. Mazzucato has opened a new dialogue by reminding us, and the reminder was overdue, that the creation of value is collective, that policy can be more meaningfully inclusive through the co-shaping and co-creating of social markets and that real progress requires a dynamic division of labour focused on the problems that 21st century societies are facing. 

She also suggests that governments can and do play a pivotal role in creating value, despite being viewed by some ideologues as an inherently unproductive sector. Mazzucato believes that government should become an active value creator rather just a facilitator of the real economy or simply a spender during crises.

We are on the cusp of a digital transformation. It will bring with it challenges and opportunities. It will confront us with its challenges much sooner than we expect. We need to be ready, as a policy, to offer its opportunities as widely as possible, and be prepared of course for the disruption it may offer to society as a whole. We will require policy options that can cater for and accommodate the principles and values by which we might all live together ethically, and in a manner that will ensure intergenerational fairness. Can we allow ourselves to speak again of universal provision?

In conclusion, may I repeat that there are too transcendent, inspiring projects that we can share. For example, the formulation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement hold out the hope that transformative approaches are possible.

It seems to me to be so obvious that our discourses must be ones that include and empower the citizen in the fullest sense. It is my firm belief that in this century economic literacy may be as important to cohesion, citizenship and democracy, as mass literacy was in previous generations to the struggles for political representation. This new and deepened literacy can help ensure that our citizens are equipped to participate in discussions and debates about the policy decisions that impinge on their daily lives; what ensured respect for their dignity and their human rights. Such an inclusion and participation can be emancipatory in effect, and in doing so be a source of strength to a real Union of the peoples.

In conclusion, may I suggest that our discourses of the future can only be made stronger by the integration of the principles of philosophy. These are principles which are within the reach of all people but require constant nourishing. Philosophy enables us to look beyond the obvious, beyond a perspective of reality that is bounded, or worse still blinded, by assumption or doctrine, and nurtures the creative and humane thinking necessary for truly functioning societies. Without it, we are, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, the people who see a thousand trees, but never the forest. It is not a time to be ‘mute’.

Guím gach rath orthu siúd a bheidh ag freastal ar an larionad seo chun dul i ngcleic leis na dúshláin intleachtúil agus acadúil atá romhain. Tá agus beidh géargá leis an obair fiúntach sin, obair na h-intinne, atá romhaibh, chun cabhrú linn uilig aghaidh a thabhairt ar an Aontas Eorpach, ar an domhain agus ar an todhchaí ata ós ár gcomhair amach. 

I wish Dr. Regan and all who study in and contribute to the vital work of this Centre every success in their endeavours. 

Go raibh míle maith agaibh

Beir bua agus beannacht.