Irish president hails Europeans on Paris visit

Ireland's President Michael D. Higgins began a three-day visit to France on Monday, kicking off his engagements with a lecture on European citizenship at the University of Paris. He is set to meet his French counterpart later in the day.

Irish president hails Europeans on Paris visit
Irish president Michael D. Higgins speaking at the Sorbonne in Paris on Monday, February 18th. Photo: The Local

The Irish head of state delivered a talk in the Grand Amphitheatre of the Sorbonne University in the French capital on Monday afternoon, at the beginning of his three-day visit to France.

Higgins, who was elected to the largely ceremonial office in October 2011, after a long and varied political career, addressed the issue of “Defining Europe in the Year of the European Citizen,” after an introduction by former French culture minister Jack Lang, among others.

“Michael D”, as he is commonly known in Ireland, implored his audience to help bring about "a Europe of citizens." 

“In this, the European year of citizens, let's support a European project that contributes to the authenticity of our life, our languages, for all our peoples and all our institutions,” said the Irish president.

Higgins, a 71-year-old former poet, academic and 25-year member of the Dáil (Irish parliament), was set to meet with French president François Hollande at 3pm on Monday, before attending a variety of cultural events over the following three days. 

Former European Commission president Jacques Delors had been scheduled to take part in Monday’s event at the Sorbonne, but the 87-year-old, so-called 'Mr. Europe' was unable to attend.

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Students and staff pay tribute to Irish university teacher murdered in Paris

Students and staff at a Paris university have spoken of their shock at the fatal stabbing of popular Irish lecturer John Dowling, who was killed by a former student outside the establishment where he taught.

Students and staff pay tribute to Irish university teacher murdered in Paris
A photo of John Dowling. Photo: Pole Universitaire Leonard de Vinci

The 66-year-old teacher, an Irishman who taught English, was stabbed repeatedly in front of the private Leonard-de-Vinci university in Courbevoie, northwest of Paris.

A Pakistani man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of murder.

Sources said the suspect, who is in custody, was a former student at the university who was born in Pakistan in 1981 and was not previously known to police.It was not yet known whether Mr Dowling had taught the student.

Students and staff at the private university paid tribute to Mr Dowling, who was originally from Dublin.

Anne Bertrand a former student told The Local: “John was always in a good mood, always smiling, always joking. He was en excellent teacher, adapting to each student at their level, and giving them exactly what they needed

“His classes were the opposite of boring. Actually we had so much fun that sometimes, people working on the same floor had to ask us to keep it down! 

“John was as modest as he was competent. He was also a free spirit, absolutely open-minded and tolerant, and his long life experience as well as his many interests made him a delightful conversationist. His death is a great loss.”
Another ormer student Yosra Ibrahem told The Local: “He was a good person who was known and well-liked by all. He was positive, dedicated and motivated and never did anything bad to anyone.

“Mr Dowling was one of the best teachers I had throughout my whole education.”

Fellow staff member Linda McLaren said: “My heart goes out to John Dowling, fellow teacher who was brutally taken today by one of our former students.

“We had just spoken to him before leaving the university. Words cannot describe our grief as we have known John for over 15 years and he was a nice gentle man who was looking forward to his retirement.”

Stephen Amoah, a 28-year-old student from Ghana said: “It's heartbreaking. We still can't believe it.”

His classmate Jad Sharif, a 33-year-old from Lebanon, described the murdered teacher as “very kind”.

Students showed photographs of the white-bearded Irishman on their mobile phones, smiling and arm in arm with members of his class.

A statement from the Leonard de Vinci school where Mr Dowling taught paid a warm tribute to the tragic teacher.

The statement said: “On Wednesday, one of our lecturers was stabbed to death in front of the Leonard de Vinci campus. It happened outside the institution on Mona Lisa square.

“The victim is John Dowling, 66, who has been teaching English at Leonard de Vinci schools since 1999.

“The aggressor has been arrested. This person had spent a few months as a student in one of De Vinci schools and had been expelled in August 2017 as he did not validate his studies.

“John was a very friendly man, respected and loved by all students and colleagues. He was also known for his great availability and kindness.

“The community of the Pole Leonard de Vinci is deeply shocked and saddened by this tragedy of extreme violence. We express our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of John Dowling.”