Thatcher Declines Boston College's Ignatius Medal

Article excerpt

News that Boston College would not award its prestigious Ignatius Medal to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as planned was greeted with cheers of victory in the Irish-American community.

According to a spokesperson at the school, the decision was ultimately Thatcher's, and the university is promising to honor her at a later date. But some of the stronger opponents of the award claim the university has just found a way to avoid embarrassment.

A university spokesperson said Thatcher's office informed Boston College March 6 that she would not be able to attend the Wall Street Council fundraising dinner May 5 in New York at which the award was to be presented. She gave no reasons for her decision, and the college refused to speculate.

Thatcher was nominated by the New York-based Wall Street Council, a group of alumni, parents and friends of Boston College. The council hosts the annual fundraising dinner at which the award, named for the founder of the Jesuit order, is presented.

Despite a firestorm of protest from Irish-American organizations and threats from angered alumni that they would cut off donations to the Jesuit-run school, the university is still defending its decision to honor Thatcher and expressed only remorse that she would not be able to attend.

"Quite frankly we're disappointed. We wouldn't have extended the invitation in the first place had we not believed that Mrs. Thatcher was a worthy recipient," said Douglas Whiting, a spokesman for Boston College. "We were looking forward to presenting the award on May 5. I think the sense here is disappointment but certainly respect for her decision, and we look forward to finding an opportunity to honor her at a later date."

Whiting said that the future honor is yet to be determined, but it could be an honorary degree or some other service award, depending on the time and the occasion.

Boston College found itself caught in an onslaught of telephone calls and letters protesting its decision to honor Thatcher, who is viewed by many as an enemy of the Irish for her policies in Northern Ireland during her tenure as prime minister. …