The Irish society has much to be proud of despite the disappointment and economic retrenchment of this gloomy time, President Mary McAleese said last night.

The Irish president made the comments when she delivered the 2010 Newman Lecture at University College Dublin.

While she acknowledged that the era when Ireland had a “roaring confidence about our national problem-solving capacity” has passed she insisted that the country still has enduring strength.

The president said that no other generation has had such success in “peace-building, in attracting high-quality foreign investment, in growing a strong entrepreneurial indigenous sector . . . in globalising Irish culture and in strategically harnessing the energy of the global Irish family”.

President McAleese noted that Irish Universities must play a pivotal role as we move to re-imagine ourselves and society. She said that they have a responsibility for creating and disseminating new knowledge.

“That place is the university . . . If our 21st century Irish universities can re-imagine themselves as successfully as they have done to date, then Ireland itself will be more than re-imagined, it will surely be reborn,” she added.