Taoiseach addresses future of Europe event as part of Hist250 celebrations

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addressed a future of Europe discussion in association with the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) as part of a series of events to mark 250 years of the College Historical Society, more commonly known as The Hist, on Wednesday afternoon March 4th.

He was greeted by Trinity Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, President of the College Historical Society David McConnell and Auditor of the Society Luke Fehily.

Mr Varadkar said it was an honour to address the event.

He said the ideals of a united Europe helped bring peace, reconciliation, jobs and wealth to Europe.

He added:

On shared security issues, such as terrorism, I believe we need to work more effectively together to build peace and security within Europe, on our border and in our neighbourhood.

After Mr Varadkar’s address the audience heard from Romano Prodi, former President of the European Commission, former European Commission president Herman Van Rompuy and former EU secretary-general Catherine Day in a panel discussion chaired by former EU ambassador to the US David O’Sullivan.

Mr Prodi said we must understand history and move forward together for the future of the EU.

Catherine Day said the EU was a beacon of decency in a very troubled world. However she said she worried about the rise of populism across the EU, saying Europe had too much experience of bad nationalism to risk this happening again.

Mr Van Rompuy commented on EU solidarity with Ireland during the Brexit process and paid tribute to the Taoiseach. He said the EU needed to do more than just survive going forward.

President Michael D.Higgins opened the week-long series of events to mark 250 years of The Hist on Monday, March 2nd.

Mr Higgins was given a preview of the exhibition of Hist manuscripts in the Long Room before he officially opened Hist250 after the final of the Edmund Burke International Debate.

In conversation with Dr John Bowman, broadcaster, historian and honorary fellow, Mr Higgins said universities do not exist to “produce students who are useful” and stressed the need for spaces for debate in order to combat populism.

Provost Patrick Prendergast said:

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this reception, marking the opening of HIST 250, our week-long celebration of a quarter millennium since the founding of the Hist, the world’s oldest student debating society

We’re honoured that the President, Michael D. Higgins, is launching our celebration. His presence indicates the great solemnity and significance of the occasion. I thank him and our graduate, John Bowman, for a really wonderful discussion.

Hist250 Week will run until Friday 6th March and will tackle the big questions of our time.

Other speakers include Chief Justice Frank Clarke, former President of Ireland Mary Robinson and Chancellor of the University Mary McAleese.

For further details of events please visit Hist250


About the Hist: 

The College Historical Society met for the first time on the 21st March 1770, almost exactly 250 years ago. Inspired by Edmund Burke’s Club of 1747, the Hist was founded to cultivate “History, Oratory, and Composition”. From that time, members of the Hist have been prominent leaders in politics, in literature, and other fields.

The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was led by Wolfe Tone (Auditor 1785), and that of 1803 led by Robert Emmet, another member of the Society. Other members included Young Irelanders Thomas Davis (Auditor 1838) and John Blake Dillon (President 1840). Isaac Butt (Auditor 1834) was the first leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party. Edward Carson (Librarian 1876), was a founder of the Unionist Party, while Douglas Hyde (Medallist in Oratory 1887 and History 1888, President of the Hist) founded the Gaelic League and became the first President of Ireland. It’s clear that Hist members were active across all sides and divides, joined by the common desire to improve themselves and wider society.


The Hist also attracted many writers and scholars: from Charles Maturin, Thomas Moore, Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker to Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett. The historian William Lecky (Medallist in Oratory in 1859) represented Trinity in the House of Commons and Sir William Rowan Hamilton MRIA, attended many meetings in the 1840s when he was a Fellow and Professor of Astronomy. For 250 years the Hist has explored all the major questions of the day challenging the minds of its members, who in turn challenged the ideas of visiting speakers. It has vindicated Thomas Davis’s claim for The Utility of Debating Societies in Remedying the Defects of a University Education. Hist250 aims to celebrate and reflect on this rich history and sustain the Society’s legacy into the future.