THE latest recipients of the Freedom of Waterford City and County stated they would never forget last week’s ceremony in City Hall where they received the rare honour.
Ambassador of Ireland to the United States Daniel Mulhall and Professor Louise Richardson of Oxford University were bestowed the esteemed status in front of councillors and their own families, with both crediting those before them who helped shape the city they grew up in.
Having been greeted by Mayor Declan Doocey, the Vice Chancellor of the renowned educational institution was proposed for the honour by Cllr James Tobin and seconded by Cllr Lola O’Sullivan, who stated her fellow Tramore woman’s excellent professional progression was guided by the education she received locally.
Professor Richardson told those in attendance about her family ties to both Tramore and the city, with her great-grandfather, who owned a store on Barrack Street, later buying a field on Priest’s Road in the coastal town.
“People have asked me sometimes about travelling so far from home and whether that was easy and I have always felt that I found it very easy precisely because of the depths of my roots in this city and county.
“On my very first day in the Ursuline I was introduced to a nun, Mother Saint Anthony, who told me she had taught both my mother and my grandmother so this kind of longevity is something we may take for granted here but in other parts of the world they certainly don’t – it’s something I certainly treasure, these deep inter-generational roots.”
Noting Waterford’s pride in its history, she stressed that her career was a consequence of the education offered to her and that in her view “there is no greater investment a society can make than in the education of its young people”.
She said she couldn’t imagine sharing the honour with anybody better than Ambassador Mulhall, who she labelled “a tireless and indefatigable advocate for Ireland and its culture, its history and its people.”
These words were echoed by Cllr Pat Nugent in proposing the former Mount Sion pupil, saying he had distinguished himself as a diplomat and a humanitarian over the past 40 years, pointing to his work in Indonesia when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit the country he was stationed in.
Having been seconded by John O’Leary, Ambassador Mulhall said his family and relatives were “embedded in life in the city”.
Having been reared by a mother from Griffith Place and a father from Doyle Street, all his siblings have remained in Waterford and inherited the family’s love of their home county.
“My mother was such a devoted Waterfordian that whenever we went away most years on holidays to Wexford, Cork or Tipperary, when we drove (back) across the bridge into Waterford she would always say the same thing every year – ‘ah, I wouldn’t swap a day in Waterford for a month anywhere else’.”
Illustrating his interest and enthusiasm for his home place, he said his colleagues often jokingly remind him that his brief is to represent all counties, not just Waterford.
“Whenever I can, I try to play up my Waterford connection and to draw attention to Waterford’s attractions.”
“I’ve witnessed its ups and downs over the past 40 years but looking back, and with an eye to the future, I’m optimistic for the prospects of Ireland and Waterford. I think our country has overcome many adversities in the past and there will be more to come no doubt in the years and generations ahead. But we should also recognize the fact that this country and this city are now in a good place and it should be our mission as public servants and representatives to try to do everything we can to keep it that way.”
Perhaps unknowingly referring to the way he carries out his own duties, he said of Waterford: “We have to be out there, presenting ourselves to the world, telling people our story.”