The Ambassador of France to Ireland has highlighted the importance of peace within the European Union, during a visit to Cork on Europe Day.
Vincent Guéren visited four Cork schools on Monday, including Scoil Bride Eglantine in Ballinlough, Presentation Brothers College, Scoil Niocláis in Frankfield and Bishopstown Community School.
Europe Day, held on May 9 every year, celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historic 'Schuman declaration' that set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe's nations unthinkable.
Schuman's proposal is considered to be the beginning of what is now the European Union.
Addressing fifth and sixth class students during a visit to Scoil Niocláis, Mr Guéren said it was a pleasure to be at the school to celebrate Europe Day and to mark “the importance of Europe Day to all of us”.
He highlighted how the EU has worked toward peace and prosperity within all of its 27 member states.
Sharing his personal story about his family’s connection to previous wars and the sadness that is brought about by the loss of loved ones to war, he highlighted how peace was of the utmost importance within the EU and acknowledged the tragedy that is the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
He commended students for their interest in learning about the EU and their commitment to educating themselves about the opportunities available to them in the future.
Echoing the Ambassador’s comments, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath, who was also in attendance, commended the school for welcoming young children from Ukraine into in recent days and acknowledged all the pupils for being “so open and so welcoming and so warm in looking after the children from Ukraine who are fleeing war”.
Speaking to The Echo about the importance of standing in solidarity with Ukraine, Minister McGrath said: "Europe Day is a celebration of the roots of the European Union and was motivated by a desire to secure peace in Europe and to encourage countries to work more closely together, and get to know each other better and that ultimately has led to the European Union and it has been very successful in securing peace within the EU but tragically we now have a terrible war play out on our borders because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But it just underrides for me more than ever the importance of multilateralism of countries engaging with each other to avoid situations developing into conflict.
"So, it is a particularly poignant Europe Day this year and Europe has welcomed millions of Ukrainian refugees into the continent and tens of thousands here into Ireland and I think that shows that we do have a different set of values of openness, of welcoming people, of tolerance, and respect and diversity and we can all only hope that the war will end as soon as possible.”
Principal of the school Marc Sheehan and Deputy Principal Rosemary Lee acknowledge how important it was for their pupils to learn about the EU and to take an interest in bettering their future prospects.
Also in attendance on the day was Fr Kevin O’Regan PP, Chairman of the Board of Management, and Dr Mary P Noonan, lecturer in French at University College Cork (UCC).