UCD figureheads have paid tribute to Peter Sutherland, the former UCD student and influential businessman, who passed away on the 9th January at the age of 71. An important figure in both Irish and international political and business spheres, he helped to shape the modern world through his work.

Sutherland studied law in UCD before beginning his career at the Bar. He became the youngest ever Attorney General at 35 in 1981, and later became the youngest ever European Commissioner on his appointment to the role in 1985. Sutherland’s business career included roles as a non-executive chairman of AIB, Goldman Sachs, and British Petroleum.

He was the director-general of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) from 1993-1995 and then became the founding director-general of the World Trade Organisation in 1995 when it replaced GATT. Through his leadership in both GATT and WTO, Sutherland oversaw many trade deals aimed at opening markets.  

One of Sutherland’s greatest achievements was the proposal of the creation of the Erasmus Programme  as a European Commissioner in 1985. Since its inception, more than nine million students in Europe have been able to study abroad as pat of their degrees.

Imelda Maher, Dean of Law, described him as ‘a great friend of UCD, unstinting in his support and advice to successive Presidents, Deans of Law and many others.’ His  contributions to UCD led to the creation of the Sutherland Chair in European Law in 2005. Maher was originally appointed to the position. He donated €4 million to the fundraising project for a new Law School, which was subsequently named after him when it opened in 2013.

UCD President Andrew Deeks described Peter Sutherland in a statement as ‘a great friend and supporter of the University throughout his life.’ Deeks described each interaction with him as ‘a powerful and helpful experience’, and noted he ‘will miss his direct and wise counsel.’

In recent years, Sutherland served on Deeks’ Presidential Advisory Board, the School of Law Development Council, and the Smurfit School of Business Advisory Board. Outside of UCD, he was involved in charity work, was Chair of the Court of Governors of the London School of Economics, and served as Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Migration since 2006.

Jennifer Garrett – News Writer