I thank your honourable Council for according me this Civic Reception on the occasion of my visit to your beautiful and historic town for the 10th Annual Ceifinn Conference.  I am well aware that you are according me this honour on account of the office I hold and I appreciate this honour greatly. I thank you for the kind words you have spoken and for your very warm welcome.

I have not been in County Clare very many times but I have had the privilege of knowing a lot of Clare people.  I think I first came to Clare sometime in the 1970s for the Annual GAA Congress which was being hosted by this town.  I was certainly back in the 1980s in Kilmaley, Co Clare for the ordination of Father Albert McDonnell, who is a well known historian and Vice-Rector of the Irish College in Rome. 

Ennis and County Clare have always very fond associations in my imagination ever since the day, way back in the 1950s, when one of the brilliant Clare ceili bands came to entertain us as students of St. Patrick’s College, Cavan.  I think it was the Tulla or it could have been the Kilfenora.  In any case, it was the one with which Mr Reid was associated.  The pleasure and the joy and the happiness which they brought to us on that occasion has lived in my memory ever since.

When I went to Maynooth in 1957, there were many, many Killaloe men in my class.  In fact, my immediate, that is the person who sat next to me, while he wasn’t from Ennis or Clare – he was from County Tipperary but he had spent five years as a student of St Flannan’s. His name was Eamon Kelly and we were close friends.

During my years in the Irish College in Rome from 1980 to 1993, I met a lot of Clare and Ennis people – Father Brendan Quinnlivan, for example.  And of course when I went as a student to Rome in 1960 your bishop, Bishop Willie Walsh was, himself, a student there.  So, my association with Ennis and the diocese of Killaloe go back a long way.

I think some of my greatest memories of Clare people are the fact that during my 13 years on the staff of the Irish College, I had the privilege and the joy of celebrating the weddings of many, many Clare people – Ennis people too – and I hope to meet some of them on the occasion of this visit. 

I have come to Clare for the Ceifinn Conference which is an important event in the calendar of Conferences in Ireland today.  They are discussing a very important topic namely Family Life Today – The Greatest Revolution.  I have been assigned the task of speaking on marriage as the foundation of family life. 

I am delighted that my visit begins with this undeserved, undue recognition on the part of the Civic authorities.  I congratulate Ennis on the progress it has made over the last fifty years.  When I checked it in the Encyclopaedia Britannica, published in 1963, it says:  Ennis is a town of some 5,678 people – statistics of 1961”. 
I rejoice with you and congratulate you on the fact that your population of 24,253 makes you the largest town in Munster and the 6th largest town in Ireland.  Some of the literature points out that Ennis is actually bigger than the cities of Kilkenny and Armagh.  Well now, we will let that one pass!  But of course if Ennis would like to become a city, I would certainly want to support that proposal. 

I know that Ennis grew up around the Franciscan Friary which was an important seat of learning at its peak.  I am glad to number among my friends today, a great Franciscan son of Clare, Bishop Fiachra Ó Ceallaigh. 

At the recent Synod I sat beside the Cardinal Archbishop of Hong Kong.  He was loud in his praise of an illustrious son of Clare and past pupil, I think, of St Flannan’s, Mons Eugene Nugent.  He represents the Vatican in Hong Kong and surrounding territory.

I wish Ennis continued success, peace and prosperity.

Thank you.