University of Limerick President Professor Kerstin Mey said the visit of both the German and Irish presidents to the University gave her “the greatest pleasure”.
Professor Mey was speaking on the visit of President of Ireland Michael D Higgins, First Lady of Ireland Sabina Higgins, German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and First Lady of Germany Elke Büdenbender to the UL campus on Friday.
The large delegation of German and Irish dignitaries on the visit to UL also included German Ambassador Cord Meier-Klodt, the Ambassador of Ireland to Germany, Dr Nicholas O’Brien and Minister of State for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne TD.
“It gives me the greatest of pleasure to welcome you all here today. This is an extremely proud day for our institution and for me personally to have the presence of not one, but two inspiring heads of State,” said the UL President.
The German and Irish presidents and the delegations visited the Glucksman Library where they viewed some of the library’s treasured items in Special Collections and Archives, including the first German edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses.
They then participated in a student engagement session as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, under the theme of ‘A stronger economy, social justice and jobs’, before moving to the UL Pavilion on the North Campus, where they viewed a hurling display and admired the Liam McCarthy cup.
Speaking about the student engagement, which featured representatives of all four faculties at UL and was moderated by Professor Joachim Fischer, Jean Monnet Chair in European Cultural Studies, Professor Mey said the German and Irish presidents had met with “the scholars of today, who will become the thought leaders of tomorrow”.
“This engagement, the only one of its kind during President Steinmeier’s visit, allowed for a discussion on Europe’s contribution to questions of social justice,” she said.
“The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique and timely opportunity for European citizens to debate on Europe’s challenges and priorities.
“It is hugely important to note that education has a key role to play in imagining, creating and delivering the resources needed to realise a shared vision of a European future that is anchored in equality and inclusion, sustainable growth and shared prosperity.
“Europe has always been at the heart of what we do at University of Limerick with our long tradition of academic focus on European Studies and European languages, our national and international reputation for excellence in the Erasmus + programme and the involvement of our students in the European Solidarity Corps.
“Moreover, the values of solidarity, partnership and cooperation that underpin a joint European approach to education has transformed University of Limerick from one on the periphery to one at the centre, which in turn benefits our staff and students as well as the wider Mid-West region,” she added.