The President of the European Union’s Parliament Roberta Metsola received the Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage from the University Philosophical Society (the Phil) yesterday.
Delivering an address to students and staff in the Exam Hall, Metsola discussed Ireland’s 50th anniversary of EU membership, the importance of young people in politics, and her own political career.
Accepting her award “graciously on behalf of the European Parliament”, Metsola thanked the Phil and detailed her trip to Ireland so far. She described the Book of Kells and the Long Room as factors creating “such an amazing atmosphere” on campus.
Speaking to Trinity News after the event, Metsola said she had learned “quite a lot” of Irish “over the past few days”, including political terms “Taoiseach”, “Tánaiste” and “Oireachtas”, as well as “maith sibh”.
Provost Linda Doyle and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar attended the address. Metsola was described as “a hugely impressive woman” by the provost and “the most worthy recipient” of the award by Varadkar.
In her address to the Exam Hall, Metsola stated that Ireland’s experience in the European Economic Community and EU has been “one of positive transformation and success”, explaining that she sees it as a mutually beneficial, “win-win” situation for all.
She then discussed the importance and power of young people in today’s political climate. She introduced this topic with a personal anecdote of her experience of balancing an ultimately unsuccessful election campaign for the EU Parliament with passing her final year law exams.
She encouraged those in attendance to make their voices heard, hold those in power to account, and to not lose faith in politics. She advised those interested in politics that “if you want change, stop complaining and make it happen”. She said that “a career in politics was one of the best decisions of [her] life”.
Varadkar also addressed the Exam Hall, discussing his experience in politics and meeting Metsola previously in European student politics. Varadkar stressed the benefits of EU membership for Ireland and listed Ukraine, Moldova, and the Balkans states as examples of countries who could also benefit from EU membership.
Varadkar listed the Erasmus+ programme and Interrail as two benefits that the EU provides to young people in particular. He finished by stating that Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine poses a threat to all of Europe, adding that the Ukrainian army is “in many ways […] fighting the fight for us.”
Varadkar, who briefly studied law before transferring to medicine in College, joked that it felt “not so good to be back in the exam hall”.
The Phil’s Gold Medal of Honorary Patronage is the highest honour awarded by the society. Previous recipients include then-Vice President Joe Biden, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Al Pacino, Martin Scorcese, Conan O’Brien, Tim Cook, Dame Helen Mirren and Whoopi Goldberg.
Recipients of the award this year have included President Michael D. Higgins, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Daisy Edgar-Jones, the Happy Pear, Lucy Dacus, and Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason.
During her two day stay in Dublin, President Metsola also addressed joint houses of the Oireachtas, met with President Michael D. Higgins, and appeared on RTÉ’s Prime Time with Miriam O’Callaghan
Additional reporting by Chloe McGing