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July 2015 NUI Galway to Confer President of Germany with Honorary Degree during State Visit
NUI Galway today conferred an Honorary Degree on President of the Federal Republic of Germany, His Excellency Joachim Gauck at the University.
NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne, said: “It is a great pleasure to announce the visit of Joachim Gauck, President of the Federal Republic of Germany to NUI Galway, where he will be conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. This is the highest honour the University can bestow. By honouring him in this way we pay tribute to his great achievements in promoting European democracy and human rights.
President Gauck honours us with this visit and we look forward to welcoming him and Daniela Schadt, to the campus where they will participate in a Roundtable Symposium on Human Rights and Development at the Irish Centre for Human Rights before the conferral of the honorary degree.”
President Gauck joins the ranks of previous honorary alumni which include, among many others, Nelson Mandela, Hilary Clinton, Enya, Anjelica Huston, and Margaret Atwood.
The Honorary Conferring and visit to the University included a Roundtable Discussion with key speakers on Development and Human Rights at the Irish Centre of Human Rights at NUI Galway. Among the Participants were representatives of the development sector in Ireland (Concern, Trócaire), members of the German delegation, academics and human rights experts, Irish and German diplomats and policy makers, moderated by Professor Michael O’Flaherty, Director of The Irish Centre of Human Rights at NUI Galway.
Speaking on the Round Table Discussion, Professor Michael O'Flaherty, Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, said: "It is a very important initiative of President Michael D. Higgins and President Joachim Gauck to convene a conversation on Human Rights and Development. Enormously significant decisions will be taken by the international community in September when it adopts the Sustainable Development Goals. It is imperative that Human Rights are strongly presented in these goals and our discussion will contribute to strengthening the policy of European states on this critical issue."
About President Gauck
In 2012, Joachim Gauck became the 11th President of the Federal Republic of Germany. Since then he has been tireless in propounding public ethics and a civic space that is grounded in a belief in inviolable human dignity – a society that, above all else that values freedom.
Joachim Gauck was born in Rostock in 1940. After gaining his Abitur, the higher education entrance qualification, he studied theology. From 1965 to 1990 he was in the service of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg, working as a pastor for many years.
Joachim Gauck became involved in the opposition in the GDR at an early age. In 1989 he was one of the founders of the New Forum and became its spokesperson in Rostock. He was among the initiators of the church and popular resistance to the communist regime in the GDR and led the weekly prayers for peace which gave rise to the protest demonstrations.
In March 1990, Joachim Gauck entered the first freely elected GDR parliament as a member of the Alliance 90 – an amalgamation of several grassroots movements – and was elected chairman of the special committee overseeing the dissolution of the Ministry of State Security. On 3 October 1990, he was appointed Special Commissioner of the Federal Government for the files of the State Security Service relating to individuals by the Federal President on the recommendation of the Federal Government. From 1991 to 2000 he was the Federal Commissioner for the Files of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic.
From 2001 to 2004, Joachim Gauck was the German member of the Management Board of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna. In 2003, he became the Chairman of the Association “Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie” (Against Oblivion – For Democracy).
He has been awarded numerous honours and prizes for his work, including the Theodor Heuss Medal, the Geschwister Scholl Prize, the European Human Rights Prize and the Ludwig Börne Prize. He has honorary doctorates from the Universities of Rostock, Jena and Augsburg.
At the honorary conferring University President Dr Jim Browne in his remarks referred to President Gauck’s call on all moderate forces around the continent to speak up in the current European debate ahead of this State Visit. “Here we are today in Galway - a University city on the edge of Europe a city of creativity and of welcome, home to artists and academics. Our city and our University have been immeasurably enriched by our place in Europe and the vision which has shaped Ireland’s development over the past 5 decades or so.
We cannot let the discourse on Europe’s future be dominated by extremism.
We must remember the Monnet vision of the middle of the last century: a vision which helped to bind up the wounds of the most bloodstained continent in modern history and transform Europe into a place of peace, prosperity and democracy governed by common policies and shared structures.”
Dr Browne paid tribute to President Gauck by saying his own personal journey served as an example to many Europeans. Throughout your lifetime you have stood as a champion of democracy and human rights and you remain a voice which can shape the conscience of Europe.
The conferring ceremony will be streamed live online from 11.30am at http://www.nuigalway.ie/germanstatevisit/