President Michael D. Higgins launched the Ethics Initiative at UCD on February 20th. The campaign aims to encourage students to become involved in a national discourse on the importance of ethics in modern Irish society.

The project will take form in two particular organisations within the university. The first entitled ‘We need to talk about ethics because…,’ is being run by Prof. Andrea Prothero of the School of Business and began on March 3rd. The second aspect of the initiative is based on the ‘Role of Conscience,’ and will be led by Dr Christopher Couley, of the School of Philosophy, later on in the year.

The President, speaking to students involved with the first part of the campaign, spoke of its importance within the context of Ireland’s recent troubles, stating, “As we leave behind a crisis that caused such reputational damage to our country, this debate will, I hope, contribute to the building of a more just and sustainable version of Ireland’s future.”

The Deputy President of UCD, Mark Rogers, expressed similar sentiments, regarding the application of this initiative to social media sites as particularly crucial for its success. “[It] is the perfect platform where students can contribute to and take part in this important national debate on ethics in Irish society.”

Student opinions will be a major factor in the debate on why ‘We need to talk about Ethics…’ and in the upcoming weeks, the question will be posed to students on campus.

Photographs will subsequently be uploaded to various social media channels, expressing the various viewpoints and there has already been some reflection on this matter.

Clay D’Arcy, studying in the School of Human Sciences, for example, expressed that “We need to talk about Ethics because… Irish women and men need truth in their lives,” while Doireann Shiunan, who is studying in the College of Health Sciences, argued that “We need to talk about Ethics because… the decisions we make shape the society we build.’

Speaking to the University Observer, Prof. Andy Prothero expressed her hope for a number of students to get involved in the campaign. “I would like us to have a number of student-led initiatives which use the white board responses as a spring board to further conversations… I would like the ideas as to what these conversations should be to come from the student population, and am excited to see how students respond.”

Undertaken as part of a wider project under President Higgins for university proposals on a national ethics initiative, the campaign has already proved a success, in her mind. “We saw a wide range of responses from each of the nine students; imagine how much we could learn from each and every student on campus, and indeed the student population of the country.”

Thanking President Higgins for attending the launch, Prof. Prothero also said, “I was incredibly proud of our students during [President Higgins’] visit to campus last week. Each response to the question ‘We need to talk about ethics because…’ was thoughtful and considered… There was a great buzz in the Quinn School during the visit, and if we can maintain this buzz throughout the project I will be delighted.”