“May I thank Fr Conn Ó Maoldhomhnaigh, President of Carlow College, for giving me the opportunity of sending my warmest congratulations to all the graduands of Carlow College on whom their hard-earned degrees are to be conferred. Comhghairdeas libh. May I also congratulate the staff and, of course, the families of all the students whose support will have made this happy occasion possible.
We are all living through extraordinary and challenging times as a consequence of COVID-19, resulting in us having to make profound changes to almost every aspect of our lives. Such changes have often necessitated us to think of creative and innovative solutions to enable us to carry on with our lives so that the basic essentials of life continue. This could not be more evident than in the field of education.
May I commend Carlow College – both staff and students – for managing the crisis, for carrying on with their degree programmes in a safe manner, even as the pandemic continues to envelop us with all its personal, social and economic consequences.
For well over two centuries, Carlow College has established a proud tradition in the fields of arts, humanities and social sciences. Its emphasis on offering an accessible, inclusive and transformative model of education, one that emphasises civic engagement, social justice and creativity, is an important contribution to citizenship. These are all qualities that we so need to foster if we are to develop a comprehensive response to the local, national and global challenges we face as a society if we are to achieve a balance between an inclusive form of social economy within the limits of ecological responsibility.
The humanities and social sciences at their best cultivate and support the development of independent, critical thinking. They are central to the creation, dissemination and negotiation of agreed social values. Acquiring and cultivating such a capacity for deliberative dialogue is so important if we are to achieve the creation of a more inclusive, just and sustainable society in which all can flourish and achieve their potential.
A noteworthy achievement of Carlow College is the fact that there is a high percentage of mature students taking courses at the College, and I wish to pay a special tribute to them today if I may. Many of you are fulfilling a lifelong ambition to participate in, or perhaps return to, third-level education, armed with perhaps considerable and often enriching life experience that has shaped you, your families and communities in so many ways. Indeed, the pursuit of learning, given such experience is, thus, both a profound personal and community experience that may open doors to new and yet-to-be-imagined pathways.
I urge you all to take and relish a moment to acknowledge the highs and lows of your journey, and appreciate that you have all earned the right to be conferred today through your commitment, determination and hard work. Undoubtedly, many of you will have surpassed what you considered to be your own capacity and potential, awakened and nurtured through the dedication and commitment of lecturers, fellow students and the wider staff at Carlow College.
It is education after all that provides for the possibility of true emancipation, and the arts, humanities and social sciences provide us with the tools to imagine a better humanity. Let us all strive to work together to achieve this goal through the creation of a more just, inclusive and sustainable world.
Beir beannacht agus comhghairdeas libh uilig.”