Varadkar makes opening address as Trinity celebrates 425th anniversary

The provost was also in attendance at a symposium held to commemorate the date

Today, Trinity marks its 425 year anniversary of its founding. A special commemorative symposium, opened by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, was held to mark the establishment of the college in 1592.

The event was also attended by Provost Patrick Prendergast, who gave an introductory address. A number of academics from Trinity, including Varadkar’s speechwriter and Trinity professor Patrick Geoghegan, also attended, with some academics making their own speeches reflecting on the college’s history.

On opening the event, Varadkar reflected on the long history of the college and its contribution to Irish society. In his opening speech he stated that Trinity “is one of the world’s great universities and for more than 400 years has been at the centre of debate and scholarship”, calling it “an iconic part of Dublin life”.

He praised the high academic achievement of Trinity’s graduates, commenting that the college “is widely recognised for the high quality of its graduates, the international standing of its research and scholarship, and the value it places on contributing to Irish society and the wider world”.

As a Trinity alumnus, Varadkar also added a personal element to his opening address, saying that it is “a great source of pride” for him to be the first Taoiseach to hail from Trinity College.

Prendergast made similarly proud claims regarding the university. “The history of Trinity reflects the history of Ireland over the past five centuries”, he began, before introducing six historians, an archaeologist, and a poet, who each gave speeches reflecting on the college’s past and its contribution to Irish society over the centuries.

As the academics referred to in their addresses,Trinity was founded at the end of the 16th century by Elizabeth I, on petition by Dublin’s leading citizens. It has grown from a small community of theology students to the 17,000 strong population of today. The college originally possessed a total of 30 books are 10 manuscripts, which grew extensively over the years.

Each historian brought their own historical perspective and analysis of the college’s history to the occasion. Dr John Bowman, Honorary Fellow of Trinity, reflected on the college in the twentieth century, stating: “Of Trinity’s four centuries of history, none can have been as transformative as the twentieth”.

He recalled the transformation that Trinity undertook in that decade as it gradually became a more inclusive community. “In 1900 Trinity was a ‘cold house’ for women, for Roman Catholics and for Irish nationalists. All of that changed in the course of the twentieth century, indeed by 1970 Trinity was unrecognisable from the university it had been in 1900.”

The event culinated in the Provost’s own address on Trinity as it stands today. He looked at recent history, and the national and global trends in higher education which are likely to determine the future, as well as what could be predicted about the remaining 75 years of Trinity’s fifth century.

He ended on a unifying note: “We are the University of Dublin with a tradition of engagement with this city and country. Equal educational opportunity forms a foundation stone of the education we offer. It is embedded in all that we do including our great research that goes to address global challenges.”

Aisling Grace

Aisling Grace was the Editor-in-Chief of the 66th Volume of Trinity News. She was also formerly Online Editor and Deputy News Editor.