NUI honours Patten for North peace role
DESCRIBED AS having been “the most popular British politician in Ireland” by National University of Ireland chancellor Dr Maurice Manning, Chris Patten was yesterday awarded an honorary doctorate of laws by the NUI at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin.
Last British governor of Hong Kong, former EU commissioner for external relations, current chancellor of the University of Oxford, and government-appointed overseer of arrangements for Pope Benedict’s recent UK visit, Lord Patten was thanked “for his immense contribution to peace on our island” and for helping “the transformation of British-Irish relations” by UCD president Hugh Brady.
He continued that it was Lord Patten’s “chairmanship of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland” which “perhaps more than any other of his impressive contributions earned Chris Patten the gratitude and respect of the people of Ireland.”
No one “could have predicted that in less than 15 years following the signing of the Good Friday agreement, the Police Service of Northern Ireland would have the backing of all parties in Northern Ireland”, Dr Brady said.
Lord Patten thought it “a particular privilege” to receive such an honour from the NUI, noting how his Irish ancestors had “fled famine and indignity for a new life in Lancashire”. He also felt they would be “astounded that I was Britain’s last colonial governor and the first Catholic chancellor of Oxford since Cardinal Pole in the 16th century”.
Later in his address, and commenting on the history of these islands, he remarked on the tragedy that “in this archipelago people allowed any sense of political humanism to be trampled by tribal loyalties”. To illustrate its absurdity, he said, “I am a man with a British passport and four pints of Irish blood.”