Yesterday, 18 years after homosexuality was legalised in Ireland, our first public same-sex civil partnership ceremony took place. Unlike in 1993, when the proposed legalisation of homosexuality generated controversy, yesterday's milestone passed without rancour. Apart from a handful of callers to radio phone-in shows, the public reaction to the news was positive.
And so it should be. Today's Ireland is a different place from the early 1990s. Despite our current economic difficulties we have made enormous progress, both material and social, over the past generation. Ireland is no longer the closed, intolerant, insular place that it was then.
Instead we have a modern, open economy and a young, well-educated, flexible workforce. Yes we have problems, but as the transformation in our attitudes towards homosexuality and same-sex unions demonstrates, we are also willing and able to adapt to changing circumstances.
It is this adaptability that will see us through our current problems and allow us to emerge strengthened by the experience of economic and financial collapse. In today's rapidly changing global economy, only those who can adjust to changing circumstances will prosper.
So congratulations to the happy couple, Hugh Walsh and Barry Dignam. We wish them well and are sure that, like Ireland, they too will enjoy a long and prosperous future.