60th Anniversary

Business & Finance Awards: Take a look back at Lord David Puttnam’s speech on trust and truth in the modern era

By Business & Finance
25 June 2024

To celebrate the launch of the Business & Finance Awards 2024, and to honour Business & Finance‘s 60 year history of delivering the best in business news, reportage and thought leadership, we take a look back at some our highlights over the last few years.

On Thursday December 12, 2019, the 45th annual Business & Finance Awards took place in The Convention Centre, Dublin.

In association with KPMG, the Business & Finance Awards honoured Oscar-winning film producer, educator and politician Lord David Puttnam CBE with the TK Whitaker Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Life.

Lord Puttnam is the producer of Chariots of Fire, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1982. Other notable films in his vast filmography include The MissionThe Killing Fields and Midnight Express. Together his films have won 10 Oscars, 10 Golden Globes, 25 BAFTAs and the Palme D’Or at Cannes.

He has lived in west Cork for over 30 years, and had been a vocal champion of the Republic of Ireland in Brexit discussions in the upper house of the UK Parliament, where he sat as a Labour Party peer until his retirement in 2021. Recently, he and his wife Patricia gained Irish citizenship.

The TK Whitaker Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Life was established in 2016 to mark the 100th birthday of Dr. Ken Whitaker. The Award recognises Irish and international political and social leaders who have made a unique contribution to public life.

His full acceptance speech is available below:

There’s a line in a lot of movies where someone says: ‘You know what, there’s things bigger than both of us.’ Twelve-and-a-half years ago, in a rather more optimistic time, I was at Westminster to hear the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, make an historic speech to the joint Houses of Parliament, during which he stressed his commitment to a plural and inclusive future for the island of Ireland. As he put it that day, Ireland’s hour has come: A time of peace and prosperity of the old values and new beginnings.
A dozen years later having witnessed the depth of the divisions uncovered by Brexit, I find myself confronted on a daily basis by the reality that all values and new opportunities are not natural bedfellows. And the squaring that particular circle rook raised a lot of difficult questions, and from time to time requires us to make some extremely tough choices.
By way of example, as you’ve just heard, my present role at Westminster involves chairing a parliamentary select committee looking at the relationship between digital technologies and democracy – How can the former be encouraged to support, rather than undermine the latter? How do those old values sometimes incongruously incorporated in today’s form of representative democracy align with the enabling opportunities offered by our new digital world.
Now this is a conundrum being faced by free societies everywhere, and in the present we seem long on questions and somewhat short on answers. I think at the core of our bewilderment lies the issue of trust the golden mean that at least offers one degree of certainty in our lives as we’ve all discovered trust is hard to win but incredibly easy to lose. And it’s surely something more than just a nice to have I spent my adult life as a filmmaker and an educator so allow if I may to tell a story that I think combines the two: Several years ago I was asked to open a brand new school in the Northeast of England. There was emphasis then on building schools for the future that policy intended to deliver. As I walked through the impressive glass atrium to cut the ribbon, I looked up and in letters of fire were the words, ‘If it’s not true, don’t say it. If it’s not right, don’t do it’ – Marcus Aurelius.
The principal saw me gazing at it and said, ‘oh, that’s our school motto, we take that very seriously here.’ On the train back to London I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I kept thinking how is it possible that we have struggled so hard to conform to a simple rubric handed down by a Roman politician over two-and-a-half thousand years ago. It’s not as though it’s a particularly complicated thought. Now I’m no Pollyanna, but when a number of years later I first heard it suggested that we’ve moved into a post-truth era, I was genuinely horrified. Truth and trust being two sides of exactly the same coin, it’s difficult to see how we can help young people address the challenges of the 21st century without a thorough re-examination of what it really means to trust one another.
Because in truth I see the emergence of very few solutions but an ever-increasing number of seemingly insurmountable questions – all the more reason why we in Ireland have to seek our own place in the world and I’m entirely convinced that we will. Lastly I need to explain why in addition to receiving this honour, this particular week is of special importance to myself and my family: Exactly 30 years ago we arrived to celebrate our first Christmas in West Cork. 60 years ago tomorrow, I walked my then-girlfriend home from the school dance and asked her to go steady with me. A great joy of my life being that she still is with me here this evening.
And finally, as Enda [Kenny] very generously said, here today in Dublin, we finalised our citizenship application so you understand that when I say thank you, this evening is in every respect a very very important one in our lives thank, you very much indeed.


Nominations for the Business & Finance Awards are now open. For more information, see the Business & Finance Awards website.