Speech by George Yeo, Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs, at the Unveiling of 'Counsellor II' in Honour of Brother Joseph McNally on 20 Sep 04 at the Irish National Museum of Country Life
1. This morning, we unveil one of Brother Joe's own sculptures near where he was born at Ballintubber. We chose this particular piece in Brother's memory because Brother saw himself, first and foremost, as an educator. He educated generations of young men in both Singapore and Malaysia, including many who now hold senior positions in the public and private sectors.
2. After his retirement in 1982, Brother threw himself to the development of arts education in Singapore. He also found time to create works of art himself. LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts which he founded will be moving into a beautiful city campus in two years' time.
3. Throughout his life, Brother Joe promoted inter-religious understanding. Singapore and Malaysia are both multi-racial and multi-religious countries. Among Brother's students were many who were not Catholics. Later in his life, Brother became a leader in Singapore's Inter-Religious Organisation. When he left us two years ago, he was mourned by Singaporeans and Malaysians of all races and religions.
4. We erect this sculpture to remember an Irishman who contributed so much to our lives in Singapore. He left at the age of 22 to a far-off land and work among a people with whom he had no links. But, like so many Irish brothers and sisters, he was doing God's work and, in God's eyes, we are all brothers and sisters.
5. In expressing our gratitude to Brother Joe, we also thank all the brothers and nuns who dedicated their lives to the education of the young in Singapore. By their lifework, they have helped transform us from a Third World to a First World country.
6. We thank the Irish people for the gift of these remarkable and wonderful individuals.
7. Monuments are built for the living, not the dead who have no need for them. For us in Singapore, we undertake this labour of love to remind ourselves of the values which Brother Joe imparted to us, that we should never live only for ourselves, that we share a common humanity, that we must rejoice in the gift of life and in life's gifts, including the arts which are an expression of the Spirit, that we must give thanks, and love.
8. What Brother has done will nourish the relationship between Ireland and Singapore. He described himself as both an Irishman and a Singaporean. He was always conscious of his Celtic inheritance and proud of the contributions that his race has made to the world. He also became a proud Singaporean and always pushed us to be better than ourselves. He has left behind a legacy and a relationship which will grow and flourish. Just as Brother Joe had made Singapore his home away from home, we hope that many Irish men and women will treat Singapore in the same way, as your outpost in an Asia which is becoming more important economically. As you have us in your hearts, so too we have you in our hearts.
9. We thank the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Office of Public Works and the Irish National Museum of Country Life for making this undertaking possible.