ONTARIO ALUMNI DINNER — November 26, 2010
This year the alumni again gathered at the National Club for our eighth annual dinner, which turned out to be a stimulating and entertaining evening. This was in large measure due to our guest speaker, Ray Bassett, Ireland's new ambassador to Canada, Jamaica and the Bahamas who presented a first hand, frank and insightful look at Ireland's difficult economic situation.
The order of business for the evening followed our customary pattern with an introduction by John Payne providing a brief account of last year's activities. These mainly involved a number of events laid on by members of the International University Clubs of Toronto (IUCT) to which our alumni group belongs. Thanks go to Bruce Buttimore who continues to take the lead in coordinating our efforts with these events as well as managing our website. We again failed to organize our Pub Night at P.J.O'Brien for the third year in a row with no plausible excuse. This event more is becoming more celebrated by its lapses than by its observance.
Of more note was the retirement of Norah Kelso, long–time TCD Alumni Relations Manager. We have appreciated her immense help and support to our efforts over the years. Her successor, Jennifer Taafe, is in touch with us and we have obtained an electronic list of all the Ontario Alumni (344) on the college records. All those with e–mails (approximately 80) were added to our mailing list.
As usual the dinner began with the toast to Canada proposed by John Payne. Kevin Harraher followed with the toast to Ireland. Peter Hearn again said both the graces and John Symons provided the toast to Trinity.
Our guest speaker, Dr. Ray Bassett, was twice a Trinity graduate, first in 1973 and again with a PhD in biochemistry in 1979. In the mid 1970s he was a clinical biochemist at the Mater Hospital in Dublin. The in 1978 he joined the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and served in the Irish Embassies in Copenhagen and Canberra, Australia. Thereafter, he spent over 10 years working on north/south cooperation in Ireland including the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement and its implementation. At the end of this period he was Joint Secretary British–Irish Secretariat in Belfast coordinating contact with the British Government on matters relating to Northern Ireland, and dealing mainly with political, security, human rights and justice issues.
His last role began in August 2005 when he was appointed Assistant Secretary–General in the Department of Foreign Affairs with responsibility for the Consular and Passport Division with a staff of over 400. The Division also incorporates the Irish Abroad Unit, which coordinates Government relations with the Irish Diaspora overseas and oversees the Emigrant Support Programme to Irish community organizations abroad.
During his career he has met many leaders including Tony Blair, George Bush, and Bill Clinton.
Ray first talked about Canada's understated contribution to the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland. In particular, he mentioned four individuals who made significant contributions to the Belfast Agreement, which was very successful when compared to other world conflicts. General John de Chastelain, straight and honourable, who dealt with the illegal arms issue. Al Hutchinson, persistent and thorough, from the RCMP who was involved with implementing The Patton Report and the transfer of police services. Peter Carey dealing with adjudicating disputed claims and judicial enquiries. Finally Judge White involved with the Saville Commission Report, which was printed in Canada.
Ray then turned to Ireland'ss economic crisis and provided a very balanced view of the situation, commenting that there had been 16 years of growth and the GDP was higher than Germany even now. The customary spirited question and answer period followed covering a range of aspects including the China's interest in buying Ireland's debt.
The evening concluded with Hilary Selby, a contemporary of Ray's, thanking him on behalf of the Ontario Alumni and pointing out that peace, not money, was the important thing.
Thanks are due to John Cary for taking care of the detailed arrangements with the National Club and to Bruce Buttimore and Bill McConnell for help with the general organization. Also, special thanks to Katharine Payne and Ryan Kaden for taking care of the registrations on the night.