Peter Sutherland, former European Commissioner, looks back on his days at Gonzaga College, Dublin, and UCD

I WAS never what you would call a star pupil at school and I have always been mystified by the fact that I passed the entrance…

I WAS never what you would call a star pupil at school and I have always been mystified by the fact that I passed the entrance test for Gonzaga College when I was eight years of age.

My education began at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Monkstown, Co Dublin and I started at Gonzaga, which was then a relatively new school, in 1954.

At that time Gonzaga was an experimental school and was regarded as being unusual. It didn't follow the syllabi laid down by the Department of Education and instead of taking the Inter and Leaving Certificate examinations, we all sat UCD's matriculation exam in fifth year. The school was intended as a training college for university and the vast bulk of students went on to third level.

The aim of the school was to provide a liberal, Jesuit education. It was single stream and maintained certain academic standards, but our education was rounded rather than exam oriented. In those days we weren't studying for exam points and we received a broad education for which I'm grateful.


I recognise that from time to time I was an extremely trying pupil and that any disagreeable experiences I had were my own fault. I was not one of the most academic of students and my real interest and focus was divided between debating and rugby I was captain of the senior rugby team in my last two years.

I knew from the age of 15 that I wanted to be a barrister. I went on to UCD where I surprised my former teachers including John Wilson who later became a Fianna Fail minister by achieving a good honours law degree and fourth place in the finals.

I loved UCD where I was taught economics by Dr Garret FitzGerald and began a close association with him that has lasted all my life. I was also influenced by Dr John Kelly, who was then dean of the law faculty. Although I am proud of the new Belfield campus, it would be hard to beat the intimacy of the old Earlsfort Terrace site and its proximity to Hartigan's pub.

Even though I was less than academic at school, Gonzaga instilled in me an appreciation of academic life. I have always enjoyed teaching and have continued to teach throughout my life first, as a law tutor at UCD shortly after graduation, then as a visiting professor of law at UCD for three years and at universities in the USA, including Harvard College and St Louis University, on visiting fellowships and professorships.