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2010 Dr. Miriam Hederman-O'Brien


The following citation was given at the presentation:

Dr. Miriam Hederman O’Brien is an outstanding figure in national and European public affairs who has given decades of expert and committed service to a wide range of institutions, governments and civic programmes. In the words of Donal de Buitléir and Frances Ruane ‘a common thread of her work has been a restless dissatisfaction with the status quo and a passionate desire to make things better’. She has held the posts of Chancellor of the University of Limerick and she has said that a university’s mission: “it is a goal of the University ...to offer [its] facilities to those who are pursuing knowledge, truth and understanding”. One of the hey aspects of her career has been to bring greater truth and clarity

She is a barrister whose Ph.D in Political and Economic Science is from Trinity College, Dublin. Her career has spanned the areas of Social Partnership, the Civil Service, The Media, Freedom of Information legislation, the judicial system, Health Services, Homelessness and the Arts. She is particularly known for trying to bring clarity and equity to our Taxation system in a manner that echoes Oliver Wendell Holme’s remark that “taxation is the price we pay for a fair society”.

Her substantial contribution to the promotion of European ideals, her vision of Europe as a ‘family to which Ireland belongs’ as she terms it, has been a continuing interest. Dr Hederman O’Brien contributes to a range of European organisations: previously Chairman and President of the Irish Committee of the European Cultural Foundation, and Vice-President for almost twenty years of European Movement-Ireland. These examples provide some measure of the enormous scope of Dr Hederman O’Brien’s involvement in a range of public affairs to which she has generously given of her time, energies and professional expertise.

Her distinguished service in the political and cultural life of Ireland and Europe includes membership of the Top-Level Appointments Committee for Senior Posts in the Civil Service between 1992 and 1998; Director of Music Network 1995-2007, membership of the National Council for Economic and Social Affairs 1984-1990 and chairman of the Foundation for Fiscal Studies between 1989 and 1998.

She has also found time to be a Director of the Dublin Grand Opera Society

Committees and Tribunals, those familiar features of Irish political life, have frequently called upon the informed leadership and widely-respected integrity of Dr Hederman O’Brien. Her chairmanship of the Commission on Taxation between 1980 and 1985 resulted in a series of publications on Direct and Indirect Taxation, Special and Environmental Taxation and Tax Administration that remain landmark publications

Recognition of this dedication to the public good has already been shown by several authorities: the Gold Medal for service to Poland (1992); the European Order of Merit (1984); Honorary Doctorates from the Pontifical University of Maynooth (1997), the National University of Ireland, Dublin (2001) and the University of Ulster (2002). Membership of the Royal Academy of Ireland was conferred upon Dr Hederman O’Brien in 2005.

It strikes me that she has made a very profound contribution to Ireland in every respect, and is someone whose selfless dedication has tried to make this country as good as it can be. I will leave the final words to de Buitléir and Ruane, who said of her: she is ‘a rare and exceptional person in the breadth of her interests and the quality of her contribution over so many fields’. For these reasons and more Dr Miriam Hederman O’Brien is the 2010 recipient of the Whitaker Award.

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