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Inauguration of Sean Barrett as Pro-Chancellor

Saloon, Provost's House

11th December 2018


Chancellor, Pro-Chancellors, distinguished guests and colleagues,

It’s my great pleasure to welcome you this evening to the installation of Professor Sean Barrett as a Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin.

Pro-Chancellors are ex officio members of the Senate of the University, and Pro-Chancellors hold office in their own right. They deputise for the Chancellor in accordance with the Statutes.

For the Chancellor and Pro-Chancellors, the conferring of degrees at commencements is the primary commitment. The Chancellor is also one of the two Visitors to the College; this entails hearing cases from staff and students on all sorts of issues. Pro-Chancellors are called on to deputise in these matters for the Chancellor, as needed.

The University of Dublin is fortunate to have in these offices very eminent individuals; our Chancellor, Dr Mary Robinson, and our Pro-Chancellors: The Rt. Hon. Lord Justice Deeny, Professor Jane Grimson and Professor David McConnell. This evening is about adding a new name to this distinguished list.

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Professor Sean Barrett needs no introduction. A Fellow Emeritus of the college, a member of the Department of Economics since 1977, a senator for the University of Dublin from 2011 to 2016, a former Junior Dean and Registrar of Chambers from 1986 to 2000 , a Vice-President of the Hist, a Vice-President of the Choral Society, and President of DUBES(1) – it was a profile of him in the University Times, I believe, that said that he had ‘Trinity running through his veins’(2). That profile also remade him as a Trinity graduate – understandably – but in fact we cannot claim to have given Sean his BA and doctorate – that distinction belongs to UCD.

But he has made his career in, and representing, Trinity for the past forty years and we could hardly hope for a Pro-Chancellor more experienced in the university’s ways, nor one more strongly devoted to its progression and advancement.

As most of you are aware, in Trinity, we recently agreed the four graduate attributes which we would like to underpin the Trinity education. We want our graduates: to think independently, to develop continuously, to communicate effectively and to act responsibly.

Sean embodies these attributes. It has always come naturally to him to move effortlessly between the Academy and the Public Square, to apply his research to real-life situations, to use his knowledge and experience to progress the ways things are run in the university and the country.

His record as a Senator is remarkable – it’s no surprise that as an economist, he was involved in furthering legislation on fiscal responsibility; and that he tabled legislation with regard to housing to ensure fair access to homeownership and address the accommodation shortage.

He also tabled the Copyright and Related Rights Bill 2015 and I would like to take this opportunity to thank him for his work in the Seanad on various Higher Education and University bills. It was vital have someone of his experience and articulacy speaking up for the importance of academic independence during the difficult years of the recession.

As an economist, Professor Barrett's main area of expertise is transport economics, particularly the civil aviation sector, including scholarship concerning Ryanair, Aer Lingus and the economics of airports, as well as the effects of regulation and deregulation. He was able to draw on all of this during his time on the Joint Oireachtas Committees of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis, on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and on Transport and Communications.

Himself a wonderful lecturer, he has always spoken up for the importance of teaching and education at third level. He puts students at the core of the university and has raised concern over what he sees as excessive emphasis on chasing high rankings.

In Trinity it is important to us that our Pro-Chancellors are professionally eminent and serve as role models to the whole Trinity community and to society. Sean is recognised nationally for his commitment to his discipline, to public service, and to research and education.

It’s with the greatest pleasure that I welcome someone with such an impeccable record of scholarship and public service to the Pro-Chancellorship of the University of Dublin.

Professor Barrett is the 59th Pro-Chancellor to be appointed to this role since the foundation of the College in 1592.

(1) Dublin University Business and Economics Society