Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today paid tribute to Tony Blair as the outgoing British Prime Minister was granted a university chair to mark his role in the North's peace process.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the £5m (€7.4m) “Blair Chair” at Liverpool University was a tribute to Blair's work at improving Irish-British relations.
“It is a fitting way to mark Tony Blair’s immense and historic contribution in helping bring peace to Ireland,” he said.
“It is a contribution that will be remembered by Irish people all over the world for as long as the history of our country is read and written.”
The Tony Blair Chair of Irish Studies will be established at the university’s Institute of Irish Studies and funded by the Irish taxpayer.
“The endowment of £5m (€7.4m) also recognises the importance of Irish Studies internationally and the achievements to date of the Institute of Irish Studies in Liverpool, a city that has so many links with Ireland,” added Mr Ahern.
The Institute, founded in 1988, has played a key role in developing peace initiatives in the North and has worked closely with British and Irish Governments during the peace process.
The funding will allow for several postgraduate studentships and an undergraduate programme in British and Irish Politics to be launched next year.
Institute researchers and students will also develop outreach work in Ireland and elsewhere on various peace-building programmes within communities experiencing conflict.
Mr Blair – who departs Downing Street tomorrow – said the move was a “great and unexpected honour”.
“But it is also one shared by the very many people in Northern Ireland and beyond who had the vision, courage and commitment to work towards a peaceful future,” he added.
Director of the Institute, Professor Marianne Elliott said: “The Blair Chair is a dual testament to the contributions of both the Prime Minister and the Institute in promoting greater understanding between the people of Britain and Ireland.
“The endowment will enable us to build on the work we have carried out in Ireland over the past 20 years and introduce our knowledge to other countries with similar issues.
“With Ireland now the fastest growing economy in the western world, the knowledge of its history, culture, language and politics will prepare students for a range of careers.
“The Institute is grateful to the Government of Ireland and its Embassy in London for their support since its foundation and for this generous recognition in endowing the Blair Chair.”
The Institute of Irish Studies was founded following calls after the Anglo-Irish agreement of 1985 for a dedicated academic body to carry out research and teaching on Irish studies.