20 November 2006 – Speaking at NUI Galway recently, Dr. Garret FitzGerald said Irish society "could eventually find that we had created an ethical wasteland – a society without human values, corroded by materialism, selfishness and also hedonism" unless "firm ethical foundations can be laid in our schools". His speech 'Civic Republicanism and Public Morality' was part of a keynote seminar series focusing on themes related to civic engagement and active citizenship, hosted by the University's Community Knowledge Initiative.
Dr. FitzGerald, former Taoiseach and current Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, said, 'Irish society still retains some pre-modern elements which by the start of the 20th century had largely disappeared in the rest of Northern Europe. These include an almost tribalist form of localism, and a client list approach to politics, together with a weak commitment to the state and the payment of taxes democratically levied by the state. In other words, our state is still marked by a notable absence of what has become known as civic republicanism.
He continued, "Unless firm ethical foundations can be laid in our schools for what I would describe as a new 'civic republicanism' – the prospect of improving, or even maintaining, the quality of Irish society as we move further in the 21st century seems pretty grim. Many – but clearly today not all – parents will no doubt assist such a process, in their own way, but the schools – both primary and secondary – hold the key to this project".
The Community Knowledge Initiative (CKI) is a project at NUI Galway that promotes partnership with communities and endeavours to enhance social commitment within communities. Funded by philanthropic donations, the CKI hopes to reinvigorate the civic mission of higher education in Ireland, putting communities at the centre of debate.
"We were delighted to have Dr. FitzGerald speak with us, as it was an educational and informative event for people of the Galway community," said Lorraine McIlrath, CKI Project Coordinator.
The keynote series is being offered as a response to the increased alienation and declining social commitment that is common in today's communities, and will host a number of high profile people who are knowledgeable in these areas.
Dr. Garret Fitzgerald, Ret. Leader and Chancellor of the NUI, Tuesday, November 14th, 3.00pm - 4.00pm, Civic Republicanism and Public Morality
Mr. Alan Kerins, Alan Kerins African Projects, Thursday, 25th January 2007, 3.00pm - 4.00pm, speaking on his work with the Cheshire House, volunteering and how important it is today.
Mrs. Mary Davis, Chair of the Taskforce on Active Citizenship, Thursday, 22nd February 2007, 3.00pm - 4.00pm, speaking on her work with the Taskforce on Active Citizenship, the Special Olympics and active citizenship in Ireland today
Mr. Alan Rusbridger, Editor of the Guardian, Friday, 9th March 2007, 3.00pm - 4.00pm, speaking on his work with the Guardian, as well as Journalism, New Media and Democracy
Mr. Maurice Mullard, University of Hull, Reader in Social Policy, Thursday, 19th April 2007, 3.00pm -4.00pm, speaking on his work with the University of Hull, citizenship, social policy and the war on terror
Ms. Caroline Casey, The Aisling Foundation, Thursday, 27th September 2007, 3.00pm - 4.00pm, speaking on her work with the Aisling Foundation and active citizenship, as well as the role that volunteering plays in community.