Young athletes joined the Taoiseach at a special event in Dublin dedicated to the memory of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
The late American campaigner's son Mark was a VIP guest at the celebration reception at Farmleigh House.
Brian Cowen described his mother, who died last year, as an inspiration and a great friend to Ireland.
The event doubled as a welcome home for the Irish Special Olympics team after the recent European summer Games in Poland.
"Eunice Kennedy Shriver was a great friend to Ireland," Mr Cowen said of former US president John F Kennedy's sister. "She was a woman of great courage and compassion. She truly was an inspiration to all.
"She worked tirelessly in her crusade to enhance the lives of those with intellectual disabilities across the world. Eunice never gave up. She was wise, she was courageous and she was resilient.
"As a member of the Kennedy clan, Eunice always had a special place in her heart for Ireland and a love of our country and our people. I want to recognise this today. She has done so much for people with intellectual disabilities in this country.
"For that, Eunice has not just my own respect but the enduring gratitude of the Irish people."
The Irish team won 10 gold, eight silver and 11 bronze medals in Warsaw.
Mr Cowen described the haul as a "fantastic achievement".