Mary McAleese delivers Trinity’s Annual Edmund Burke Lecture

Mary McAleese spoke tonight about children’s rights in relation to religious freedom

The soon to be Chancellor of the University of Dublin, Dr Mary McAleese gave the annual Edmund Burke Lecture in Trinity this evening. McAleese gave a speech entitled ‘The Future of Ireland: Human Rights and Children’s Rights’,

The Edmund Burke Lecture series is held by the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

During her lecture, McAleese noted that onerous obligations are placed on children before they have the capabilities to understand their effect. She stated that she takes no issue with infant Baptism as it is the parent’s right but that, “the juridic consequences which are bolted on to Baptism by man made canon law are a different matter”. McAleese found though that some were inconsistent with, “the child’s right to freedom of conscience, thought and religion, including the right to change religion.”

McAleese declared that this subjects the child to a lifelong commitment to the Church which cannot be rescinded and as they were made on their behalf by adults, “the child could not have been aware of the promises or their import.”

Throughout this speech, McAleese evaluated this issue in connection with canon law which are regulations set by the Church, human rights and the contractual obligations these commitments carry.

She concluded her speech by explaining that, “Any covenant between Church and State should start with children’s rights. So should any talk of Ireland’s future. It is a good place to begin.”

It was recently announced that McAleese is set to take over the role of Chancellor of the University of Dublin, having been nominated by twenty-nine members of the University Senate. During this process there were no other candidates nominated, and McAleese was therefore elected unopposed.

She will take over the position from Mary Robinson, who held the role from 1998 until her term ended in May of this year.

As Chancellor McAleese will be head of the University and will chair meetings of the University Senate. This includes overseeing ceremonial events such as commencement ceremonies when the University of Dublin is awarding degrees. The Chancellor also selects those that receive honorary degrees.

Additionally, the Chancellor hears appeals against decisions made by the College Board and interprets the College Statutes. McAleese will be one of two Visitors in charge of this responsibility along with The Hon. Dr Justice Maureen Harding Clark, a former member of the High Court.

Shauna Bannon Ward

Shauna Barron Ward is a staff writer at Trinity News. She is a Junior Sophister Law student.