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  September 29, 2003

Peacemakers Receive First Dodd Prize

A crowd of some 500 people gathered under sunny skies at the plaza of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Wednesday to honor two world leaders for their roles in advancing the Northern Ireland peace process.

Image: Thomas J. Dodd Jr., Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott of the U.K., and Sen. Christopher Dodd.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott of the U.K., center, receives the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights on behalf of Prime Minister Tony Blair from U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd. At left is Thomas J. Dodd Jr., chair of the Dodd Research Center National Advisory Board.

Photo by Peter Morenus

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain and Ireland's Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern were awarded the inaugural Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights for developing the Good Friday Agreement, a blueprint for peace and justice following decades of conflict in Northern Ireland. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott represented Blair, who could not attend.

The Dodd Prize is name for Thomas J. Dodd, who was a Connecticut senator from 1959 to 1971 and was executive trial counsel during the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials.

"This event is one of profound significance to this institution," said UConn President Philip E. Austin. "In addition to bringing such outstanding leaders to our campus, it gives us the opportunity to commemorate an abiding commitment to scholarship and activism in the cause of peace and human justice.

"As the first recipients so amply demonstrate," Austin continued, "the prize represents recognition of the fact that the struggle for human rights is always a work in progress, always a commitment to an ideal that may not be realized in one's own lifetime, always the work of farsighted men and women who know the world's imperfections, recognize that all human beings are fallible, accept the reality that absolute truth can never be known and nevertheless devote their wisdom and energy to this frustrating but noble pursuit."

Thomas J. Dodd Jr., chair of the Dodd Center's National Advisory Board and a former U.S. Ambassador, said the center and the prize are fitting tributes to his father, "a man who cared so deeply about education and had such a strong commitment to human rights and justice both at home and abroad."

Dodd said Blair and Ahern are "extraordinary men," noting that it would have been easy for them to give up, "but instead they chose to come together to advance a cause they both knew was right. É By reaching the agreement, they demonstrated an unwavering commitment to two basic principles that defined my father: human rights and the rule of law."

Sen. Christopher Dodd, who presented the prize to Prescott and Ahern, said of his father, "His experience at the Nuremberg Tribunal forever shaped his core beliefs in the rule of law and the promotion of justice and human rights. Those beliefs were woven into his years of public service and it's the very fabric of our entire family. That's why this is a fitting tribute."

He thanked Blair and Ahern for "their tireless efforts to bring peace and reconciliation to the peoples of Northern Ireland," noting that "many people may not fully appreciate how prolonged and intractable the conflict has been. The troubles have their roots in 300 years of Irish history, a history filled unfortunately with failed solutions, oppression, economic hardship, partition, sectarian violence, and above all, profound human suffering."

Dodd, who noted that his family has Irish roots, also acknowledged former President Bill Clinton and former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell for their "tireless work in the peace process."

Ahern praised the United States for its help. "We deeply appreciate the political and moral support and attention we have received from this great democracy, which has carried us over many difficulties, " he said.

Ahern said the successful negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement "was one of the proudest moments of my political life. It is an agreement that I fought hard to achieve. It is an agreement that I am convinced will stand the test of time."

He said elections are "part of the way forward" and that he and Blair and leaders of the pro-agreement parties are working to create the conditions for elections to take place.

Prescott read a message from Blair, who thanked Ahern, Chris Dodd, Sen. Ted Kennedy, Mitchell, Clinton, and many others "who have willingly given up their time and used their influence to help lay the foundations for a better future for Northern Ireland." Kennedy was in the audience.

Blair's message said that "now is the time for all sides to take the final steps to make the agreement complete - governments, unionists, nationalists, and republicans. The outcome is by no means guaranteed. And, as always we depend on the support and encouragement we receive from this side of the Atlantic."