ONTARIO ALUMNI DINNER – NOVEMBER 8, 2013
This was the eleventh annual dinner and the seventh one at the National Club. After a very slow response initially, momentum grew and approximately 45 people attended, including some younger alumni, which is pleasing to see. The reception preceding the dinner enabled people to meet and mingle and to talk to our guest speaker, Senator Sean Barrett, his wife Maeve and daughter Melissa.
In his introduction, John Payne, asked for newer graduates to become involved and to provide feedback at to what they would like to see in the way of gatherings. The annual dinner is a good event, however informal, more regular, meetings may be needed. The long standing committee continues unchanged and thanks are due to John Cary for acting as Treasurer and for handling all the detailed arrangements with the National Club and to Bill McConnell and Bruce Buttimore for help with the general organization. Our best wishes were extended to Les Colhoun, who continues to be unwell, and his wife Heather, and to Ann McConnel, Bill’s wife who is also in ill health.
In April there was a reception downtown for Professor Brian McGing, Head of School of Histories and Humanities and Regius Professor of Greek who proved to be a great ambassador for the college. This visit was the result of continuing good support and encouragement from Aoife Keogh at the Alumni office. There is a growing group in Ottawa led by Deirdre O’Connell, assisted by Ian Ashe and supported by Ray Bassett, the Irish Ambassador, and Sean Barrett attended a function with them earlier in the week. We also receive the regular newsletters from the Irish Embassy and these are posted on our website.
Thanks go to Bruce Buttimore for continuing to manage our website and for setting up a Linkedin Group. Bruce also takes the lead in coordinating our efforts with The International University Clubs of Toronto that continues to offer numerous events during the year through several of its constituent members. The dates and details are posted on our website. Also we maintain close contact with the Oxbridge group, which as its name implies is a joint venture for both these universities, and they welcome our participation at many of their events.
This year also saw the passing of Marcus Beresford, a long time supporter of this group and Derek Wilson, who was well recognized in the engineering profession. Trevor West, a well known member of college and former Senator also died this year. Many alumni will remember him through his contribution to college sports and DUCAC.
The toast to Canada was given by John Payne, followed by the toast to Ireland by Alan Louthe. Ray Wiley said the grace before we all sat down to dinner. The meal concluded with the second grace also said by Ray Wiley and by the toast to Trinity by Ross O’Colmain.
This year’s guest Speaker was Senator Sean Barrett who took up the post of lecturer in the Economics Department in Trinity College in 1977, after graduating from UCD in 1973, obtaining a masters degree at McMaster in Hamilton and returning to UCD to gain a PhD in Economics. He has remained at Trinity for well over 30 years during which time he has held some of the highest positions of office in college and has become an integral part of the college community. Along with his 14 year tenure as Junior Dean, he served as a member of the board of college on three separate occasions and held key roles in many college bodies, most notably the finance and residency committees.
His commitment to the Trinity community has been exemplified by his involvement with student organizations, having served time as both the treasurer of DUCAC and the President of the Soccer Club. On a societal level, he is presently the Vice-President both the Historical Society and the Choral Society and recently had the honour of being appointed the President of the DUBES.
During his career he has gained a reputation as one of the foremost economists in Ireland and has been invited to give keynote speeches at several conferences in many different European cities. In Ireland, as one of the original founders of the annual Kenmare Conference in 1977, he helped establish a crucial yearly economic summit that has attracted figures from the highest level of government and those from the upper echelons of the business world to come and share their ideas and policies at an open transparent forum for over 30 years.
Sean gave wide ranging, engaging, amusing and informative talk covering the recent Senate referendum in Ireland, the Irish economy, and Trinity, as well as noting Irish-Canadian connections. Not speaking as an ex-senator, he mentioned how the polls did not reflect the outcome of the Senate vote and that Northern Ireland had a big role in saving the Senate. He showed what the Senate brought to parliament and put forward that it is good for governance and there should be more university seats and access to academic expertise. On the economy he felt the mortgage crisis was worsening, that growth had not returned, and that though the days of Ireland as tax haven were over, no new business model has been proposed. Budgets would continue to be painful and there is a risk of a lost generation of young people with high unemployment and insurmountable financial burdens. He outlined the challenges of the exiting the bailout – the success story is really only skin deep. He said there were some entrepreneurs, like Ryanair, who could make a difference, but that the civil service was complacent and needed changes. He felt that Trinity was a beacon of hope in a “blighted economy” where the government was focussed on public relations as a substitute for reform. There were a number of great stories about Trinity and his role a Junior Dean. As might be expected they included Brendan Kennelly, R.B. McDowell, the Boat Club and Germaine Greer, David Webb the well known botanist, and Larry Kelly the larger than life skip and very quotable character who was an integral part of Commons. Senator Sean Barrett's Presentation (pdf).
There was a question period at the end and a thank you by John Payne who presented a gift to Sean of three books about the history of the Irish in Canada.