I am delighted that so many have joined us this evening for what is a rather
We are here to mark the getting under way of Belgium's Presidency of the
Council of the EU.
We are here to celebrate the first anniversary of the successful referendum
on the Lisbon treaty.
Thirdly I will launch our latest exhibition, especially commissioned from 6
leading artists 'EU Street Art: Europe – a world of possibilities – street art
And finally this reception also marks my own farewell as Director of the EC
Representation in Ireland
But firstly I want to wish every success and best wish to my successor
Barbara Nolan who takes over on 1st October. I hope that all of you
will offer her the wonderful support and assistance that you have afforded to
Turning now to the Belgium presidency I want to extend every good wish to
the Ambassador and Belgium over the coming months as it seeks to steer Europe
towards better economic times.
One year on from Ireland's decisive decision at the 2nd
Referendum, Belgium will play a key role, working with the European Parliament
and the European Commission, in delivering the implementation of the Lisbon
Please allow me a moment or two to reflect on the period of time devoted to
the two referenda in Ireland on the Lisbon Treaty.
Personally speaking, the communications challenges, or opportunities if you
will, during both periods were enormous. And, suffice it to say, the
right result prevailed!
Looking back there were low and high moments too numerous to recall now.
Above all, I have fond memories of working with many partners across civil
society, government and political parties during those couple of years. I want
to thank all them for their major contributions to the debates about the Treaty
and for their support for the Representation in our communication on the
I am particularly proud of the information and communication role we
undertook here in the Representation, even if a commentator, on one occasion,
accused me of "propagandising on behalf of the Lisbon Treaty in
From this I take the satisfaction that our efforts in putting the facts
about the Treaty and setting the record straight were getting through.
Looking ahead, I do not believe that it should be taken for granted that the
Irish electorate would automatically sign up for any future Treaty change
should such an opportunity present itself.
It therefore remains the case that we must not allow public debate about the
EU and Ireland's membership of the EU to be confined just to times when faced
with ratification of a new treaty.
That is too late. And history unfortunately proves this.
Rather, there is a compelling need to have a sustained approach to engaging
with people on the EU and what it means for Ireland. I wish you all every
success in this ongoing challenge.
Before I make a few closing remarks about my time here I want to unveil our
latest exhibition which is designed to reach the audience that other
communication tools cannot reach!
It is an idea that I have had in my mind for some time and I am glad that it
is seeing the light of day just before I leave.
I invited 6 artists to produce a series of 12 panels illustrating their view
of Europe today. Presenting a diverse range of current themes, the works are a
reflection of thoughts from the street to the street.
The exhibition has been curated by Fiona Mulholland and it aims to look at
common European themes in an uncommon way.
I wish to thank the artists concerned: Danleo, JOR, Mick Minogue, Will St
Leger, ADW and Adrian et Shane.
One of the themes running through the artistic works is 'diversity,'
reflecting the Union's motto 'United in Diversity.' I would make a plea on this
occasion that in the future the motto be revised to encapsulate the value of
'tolerance,' fundamental to the rule of law, so that the motto would read:
'United in Diversity and Tolerance.'
Looking back it has been an eventful 5 years in the post, some events
particularly rewarding, others less so – but all presented challenges that I
When I took up the job in 2005, the Sunday Business post described me as a
'career civil servant who had spent the last few years working in David
Byrne's cabinet in Brussels, where I had to worry about everything from
bird flu to BSE.'
During my time here I am glad to say there has been neither bird flu nor mad
cow disease to contend with. But there were many other issues, big and
For me it has been a privilege to lead the Commission Representation over
the last 5 years.
While the two referenda were particular high points I am pleased to say that
we embraced the EU communication challenge on a wide range of fronts.
After Lisbon 1 we launched a country wide Talk to Eu information campaign,
including cinema ads, public meetings, development of a presence on social
networking sites, competitions and other publicity.
We have taken up the challenge and opportunities presented by new media to
communicate what the EU is doing.
And I can also say that we continue to develop our main website
euireland.ie which is well used as a valuable and trusted source of Union news
The European Public Space has been developed and now is well used by a wide
variety of organisation interested in EU matters.
We have developed good links with many organisations throughout Ireland.
We have worked closely with Government departments and agreed a MoU on
communicating Europe with the Dept of Foreign Affairs and the European
We have extended our work in the education field and will continue to do so
into the future.
We have devoted a lot of effort and time to working with the media.
In conclusion I would like to thank the Diplomatic community, Government
departments, Irish civil servants and other stakeholders. I would like to pay a
special tribute to my friends and colleagues working in the Representation,
without whom we would not have achieved what we did.
Your collegiality and warm friendship will continue with me in pastures new!
I would now ask you to raise a glass, 'To Europe.'