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Irish premier Enda Kenny has welcomed the establishment of the Confucius Institute at the University of Ulster, stressing the importance for Ireland as a whole of the development of closer links with China.

The Taoiseach was visiting the University’s Belfast campus to deliver the 2012 Chancellor’s Lecture.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Kenny touched on themes as diverse as UK-Ireland relations, the peace process, the future of the Euro, fiscal stability Ireland’s golfing prowess, and the importance of university research and development to economic growth and prosperity.

Speaking to an invited audience of academics, politicians, jurists and civic dignitaries on the theme of ‘Peace and Prosperity – Continuing The Journey’, the Taoiseach said:

“ The formal opening of the prestigious Confucius Institute heralds a valuable resource for anyone in Northern Ireland wishing to build partnerships with China, whether they are in education, business, the arts or government.

“Having just returned from a visit to China last month I can fully understand the importance of this initiative.

“My visit to China was part of our efforts to increase Ireland China relations, especially in the areas of trade and investment.  As a small, open economy, globalisation is hugely significant for all of Ireland. And in that context, the major emerging and expanding markets are increasingly important. “

The Taoiseach was welcomed to the campus by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard Barnett, who spoke of the high level of international esteem in which the Irish premier was held.

“There is no doubt that the Taoiseach has achieved international respect for his economic policy. I saw this at first hand just a few weeks ago, when I had the honour of attending a reception that President Obama held at the White House in honour of the Taoiseach and Mrs Kenny.

“At the event the President spoke in what can only be described as glowing terms about the Taoiseach’s management of the Irish economy. Such international respect is not only well deserved, it is also, an essential ingredient for the success of the economy, as it gives international firms and others the confidence to invest here.”

Before Mr Kenny spoke, the audience saw a video message from University of Ulster Chancellor James Nesbitt, who is currently filming in New Zealand.

“When I became Chancellor of the University of Ulster almost two years ago the downturn in the economy was well established but the full ramifications in terms of austerity, job losses and restricted economic growth had not materialised,” said James Nesbitt.

"Hard days were coming and in the face of that prospect it is all too easy to withdraw and become defensive, to see the threats without realising the opportunities that the new economic climate presented.

"To ignore those opportunities, to promote austerity rather than seek prosperity would, I think, only have achieved stagnation and strangulation.
“Of course there have been good economic times in the past and no doubt there will be again. It is perhaps worthwhile turning again to Confucius for inspiration in our approach to managing good times. He once said ‘when prosperity comes, do not use all of it’. Events of recent years have shown the wisdom of those words – and I hope we can pay heed to them.”

The annual Chancellor's Lecture was established by the University in order to offer a platform for distinguished contributors to public life to offer their views on issues of major public importance. Mr Kenny’s lecture was the sixth in the series, which began in 2007.

As the VIP audience gathered on the campus, they were entertained by a choir made up of pupils for from St Dominic’s school in Belfast.


A gallery of images from the Chancellor's Lecture can be viewed at:

The full text of the Chancellor's lecture can downloaded from the link below:'s Lecture 2012.pdf