SATURDAY, 8 MAY, 1999, 11.00AM

Secretary of State, Minister, Deputy First Minister Designate, Members of Parliament. Archbishops, President, Deputy Mayor and Alderman, Reverend Sisters, Brothers, Fathers, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Cuirim fáilte roimh cách. I welcome all of you to the official opening of the Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive on this the Eighth of May, the ninth anniversary of his death.

Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich would have been very pleased – I will not say proud because he was not a proud man – but happy to bid you welcome here today.

The Secretary of State, Dr Mo Mowlam, is most welcome. Your heroic efforts for a lasting peace and your untiring work in the search for that peace make you a very welcome guest in any part of this island.
I said that the late Cardinal was not a proud man. I think, however, he would be seriously tempted to pride to see here, his past student and illustrious statesman, now a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace, Mr John Hume. As an Armagh man, he would have been very happy to welcome also the Deputy First Minister Designate, Mr Séamus Mallon, MP for this constituency. With the Secretary of State and many others, both John and Séamus have worked tirelessly to provide an enduring peace in our land. We pray that their efforts will bear much fruit and that the fragile peace we now enjoy may grow to full strength, stature and maturity.

The Cardinal loved Donegal and went there often. The presence of Dr Jim McDaid, TD, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, a Donegal man from St Colmcille’s native heath, is very much appreciated. We are truly honoured and privileged that both the Irish and British Governments should be represented here today at such a high level.

Tomás Ó Fiaich was a Cardinal and therefore a special advisor to the Holy Father. It is most fitting that the Pope’s representative in Ireland, the Apostolic Nuncio in Ireland, Archbishop Storero, should be present. He too is most welcome.

Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich greatly enjoyed and cherished the company of leaders and representatives of the other Christian Churches. He was for many years a member of the Catholic Church’s Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. His motto, Fratres in Unum, Brothers in Unity, reflected his desire to promote understanding and respect for those who differ. He would have greatly appreciated the presence here today of Archbishop Eames. Both served together as Archbishops of Armagh. He would have been very happy that Dr Eames and I, his successor, are the two Patrons of this Library/Archive. The Cardinal would also have been very happy to welcome The Reverend David Kerr, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland and Dr Samuel Hutchinson, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, representing the Moderator who is abroad. I look forward to our joint prayer of blessing later this morning.

Céad míle fáilte to our guest-speaker, Professor Peter Ochsenbein from St Gallen, Switzerland. It is most appropriate that we should reflect today on Irish-European links and that we have a distinguished scholar from the site of an ancient Irish monastic settlement to lead that reflection.

I welcome Mrs Deirdre Fee and the Cardinal’s nephews and nieces. This is a proud if poignant day for you. I welcome Cllr Tommy Canavan, Deputy Mayor of Armagh City and District, representing the Mayor. I also welcome Alderman Joseph Trueman, Chairman, Southern Education and Library Board; the Department of Education in Northern Ireland has co-operated most generously with this Library/Archive.

All here present, from Armagh City and Archdiocese, from throughout Ireland and from many countries abroad, have in one way or another been touched by the life and times of Tomás Ó Fiaich, either during his life or posthumously, sharing his spiritual, cultural, literary, historical, peace or scholarly interests. Mgr Murray will thank the various groups and individuals later whether from the Church or historical, political or academic worlds . I also warmly welcome the benefactors of whom Mgr Murray will speak later but I must now mention the Heritage Lottery Fund which has contributed so handsomely to the project and in so doing to the study of history and to the promotion of literary and cultural interests. Mrs Primrose Wilson will later address us and unveil a plaque.

As Cardinal Ó Fiaich’s second successor it is a great privilege and joy for me to be here today. Cardinal Daly, his immediate successor, is unavoidably absent today honouring a long-standing engagement abroad. In his letter of apologies to me he wrote as follows:

“I have long looked forward to the opening of the Library and Archive, having shared in the planning and preparations for it from the beginning. …. It will be a very important occasion in the life of the Archdiocese of Armagh, and will stand as a wonderful memorial to the life and learning and the culture of the late Cardinal. It will also be a great enhancement of the facilities, which Armagh can offer as a centre for Irish ecclesiastical studies. I hope that the new Library and Archive will contribute greatly in the development of Armagh as once more a centre of higher studies, for which it was so renowned in the past. The new building certainly enhances the architectural heritage of Armagh and I look forward to visiting it at an early date in the future.”

We all applaud Cardinal Daly’s sentiments. Bishop Gerard Clifford regrets that because of a Confirmation ceremony he cannot be here today.

The opening of the Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich Memorial Library and Archive is indeed a proud and happy day for all who have supported the project and have worked tirelessly for its achievement. I congratulate them warmly. Today marks the fulfilment of a long-cherished dream for Cardinal Ó Fiaich’s many friends and admirers.

This elegant, modern, state-of-the-art Library and Archive provides a worthy monument to the memory of a much-loved son of Armagh.

We know the past because we keep a memory of it. This building will be an eloquent testimony to the memory of the late Cardinal. It salutes the life and work of a highly respected academic, a well-known ecclesiastic and a greatly esteemed priest. It will keep his memory alive and vivid for a long time. The fact that his books and papers are now being placed in a public Library and Archive to provide a rare and precious opportunity to know the man in a real way is very appropriate, for his books reflect his many interests. They reveal his strong sense of identity, his pride in his Irishness, his love of history and of sport, his passionate interest in Irish history and Irish spirituality.

He lived twenty busy years on this hill. This Library and Archive will offer a wonderful opportunity to those who wish to come and interest themselves in the subjects in which Cardinal Ó Fiaich was interested, to study the kind of material and literature and sources which he studied and which made him the wholesome, graceful person whom we knew and admired.

The late Cardinal would most certainly have wholeheartedly welcomed the Good Friday Agreement. He would have rejoiced in the opportunity which it provides. I believe that he would have been delighted at the election of his nephew, John Fee, to the Assembly.

Now the implementation of the Agreement is being delayed by the present impasse. Many of you remember the pleas made by Cardinal Ó Fiaich at the time of the impasse over the hungerstrikes in 1981. Those appeals were for concessions to be made by both sides. Those pleas fell on deaf ears – with tragic results.

Today I re-echo a similar appeal to those embroiled in the present impasse to go the extra mile and give the people the peace for which they have overwhelmingly voted. Let both sides give a little so that all may gain a lot.

This is a splendid monument. But I know that the future memorial which would really delight the late Cardinal would be the sight of people, young students especially, from different traditions, religions and politics, sitting side by side in this public library – studying their own culture, religious history and way of life and those of others – and growing in their understanding together and appreciation of each other in the process.

We are immensely grateful to those who have provided this excellent Library and Archive. Let us hope that the achievement will inspire and challenge many people to use it often.