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Trinity College Dublin






University Senators

Of the sixty members of Seanad Éireann, three are elected by graduates of the University of Dublin. At present, the three University of Dublin senators are Senator Ivana Bacik, Senator Sean Barrett, and Senator David Norris.

Representatives of the University of Dublin in Seanad Éireann : 1938-Present

Dates Representative
1938-43 Ernest Henry Alton
1938-43, 1944-48 Joseph Johnston
1938-44 Robert James Rowlette
1943-59 William Robert Fearon
1943-47 Theodore Conyngham Kingsmill Moore
1947-51 Joseph Warwick Bigger
1948-69 William Bedell Stanford
1951 Frederic Gardner Orford Budd
1952-54, 1960-73 William John Edward Jessop
1954-61, 1965-70 Owen Lancelot Sheehy Skeffington
1961-65 John Nathaniel Ross
1969-89 Mary Terese Winifred Robinson
1970-81, 1982-83 Timothy Trevor West
1973-77 Noel Christopher Browne
1977-79 Donal Conor Cruise-O’Brien
1979-87 Catherine Isabel Brigid McGuinness
1981-2011 Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross
1987 - present David Patrick Bernard Norris
1989-92 Carmencita Maria Hederman
1993-2007 Mary Elizabeth Francis Henry
2007 - present Ivana Catherine Bacik
2011 - present Seán Declan Conrad Barrett

Trinity Senators since 1938

Since 1938 the University of Dublin (Trinity College Dublin) has returned three senators after every general election to sit in Seanad Éireann. Twenty-two different people have represented the constituency over this time. Here follows a brief biography of each senator. Much of the biographical information is taken from the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography, published in nine volumes by Cambridge University Press, and further information can be accessed online at dib.cambridge.org.

Ernest Alton (1873-1952), was a university senator between 1938 and 1943. Known as ‘the pocket Hercules’ because of his prowess on the sporting fields while an undergraduate, Alton was a leading classical scholar and became a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 1905. Following the winning of Irish independence he was elected to Dáil Éireann (Trinity had three seats in the Dáil until the 1937 Constitution transferred this representation to the Seanad), where he sat from 1922 to 1937. He was elected to the Seanad in 1938, and was elected Provost of Trinity in 1942 and he served in this role until his death in 1952. According to an appreciation in The Irish Times he was ‘the greatest authority on Ovid since the eighteenth century’ and in the Dictionary of Irish Biography it is noted that his ‘quick mind, genial personality, and unfeigned patriotism gained him significant friends’.

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Joseph Johnston (1890-1972) was a university senator between 1938 and 1943 and again between 1944 and 1948. Educated at Trinity College Dublin and Oxford, Johnston came to prominence in 1913 with his book Civil war in Ulster which was an attack on the Ulster unionists for their involvement in the Larne gun-running. A lecturer in applied economics at Trinity College Dublin he was elected to the Seanad as an independent. Following his defeat in the 1943 election he was appointed by the government to the post-emergency agricultural commission. He was re-elected to the Seanad in 1944, and was appointed to the Seanad in 1951 by the Taoiseach, Éamon de Valera. The author of a number of significant works on economics (The nemesis of economic nationalism in 1934, Why Ireland needs the common market in 1962), Johnston is described in the Dictionary of Irish Biography as ‘among the first agricultural economists in the country’ whose ‘work as an agricultural economist was especially important for what was a substantially agrarian economy’.

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Robert Rowlette (1873-1944) was a university senator between 1938 and 1944. Educated at Trinity College Dublin, where he studied two courses as once – medicine as well as ethics and logic – and it seems he moved from one discipline to the other with ease. A keen sportsman, he was president of the Irish Amateur Athletic Association (1908-1920) and was honorary physician to the Irish Olympic teams in 1924 and 1928. He served as a doctor during the First World War, and was later physician to Mercer’s Hospital in Dublin. Appointed professor of pharmacology at the Royal College of Surgeons, he became professor of materia medica and pharmacy at Trinity in 1926. He was a TD in Dáil Éireann between 1933 and 1937 (and was the first deputy elected who did not have to take the oath of allegiance), and was elected to the Seanad in 1937. During the Second World War he took charge of air-raid casualty preparations in a joint agreement between Mercer’s and another hospital. He also sat on the committee of inquiry on national health insurance and the public medical services.

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William Fearon (1892-1959) was a university senator from 1943 to 1959. As a student at Trinity he studied natural science and later medicine, and won the vice-chancellor’s prize for English verse in 1917, before studying in London under Frederick Gowland Hopkins, the father of British biochemistry. Returning to Ireland, Fearon was regarded as a pioneer in biochemistry and was the first holder of the chair of biochemistry at Trinity. He was a gifted after dinner speaker, and R.B. McDowell said that he ‘could be both witty and serious, the best I ever heard’. Elected to the Seanad in 1943, Fearon’s programme for senate electionincluded ‘national health and improved dietary standards, food production, and applied education’ (Dictionary of Irish Biography). Other parliamentarians did not always know what to make of his dry humour. Once, when asked his opinion on the viability of early sugar-beet plans, Fearon replied, ‘Well, you know, if the farmers don’t make money out of sugar beet, they may raise Cain’.

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T.C. Kingsmill Moore (1893-1979) was a university senator between 1943 and 1947. A leading barrister, he was elected to the Seanad where, according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography, he made ‘a point of ensuring that his nomination papers were signed entirely by women graduates’. His parliamentary contributions ‘were thoughtful and insightful and reflected his humane and civilised views’, for example his speech on 12 June 1946 on the issue of prison reform following the death on hunger strike of some IRA prisoners. He became a High Court judge in 1947, and was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1951. Judge Gerard Hogan has described him as ‘one of the greatest judges that the state has ever produced’. A man of many talents, he also published a book of poetry and a classic study of angling.

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Joseph Warwick Bigger (1891-1951), was a university senator between 1947 and 1951. As a student at Trinity he invited Patrick Pearse to address the Gaelic Society, and graduated in first place in his final examinations. He became professor of preventive medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1920, and later professor of bacteriology and preventative medicine at Trinity (1924-50). According to the Dictionary of Irish Biography ‘he pioneered the clean-milk campaign, greatly improving standards in milk supply throughout Ireland. Outstanding among medical and scientific authorities of his time in Ireland and as a lecturer and teacher, he was also a keen amateur photographer’.

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William Bedell Stanford (1910-1984), was a university senator between 1948 and 1969. Stanford was an authority on Greek poetry and according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography was ‘the most distinguished Irish classical scholar of his generation’. He was appointed regius professor of Greek in Trinity in 1940 and held this chair until his retirement in 1980. He served in the Seanad for twenty-one years and ‘spoke effectively on a wide range of issues during this period’. He also represented Ireland in parliamentary conferences in Vienna (1956) and Warsaw (1959), and promoted good relations between Ireland and Greece. He became chancellor of the University of Dublin in 1981 and fulfilled this role with great distinction until his death.

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Frederick Budd (1904-1976) was a university senator in 1951. A leading barrister, he was elected to the Seanad in 1951 but resigned his seat a few months later upon being appointed a High Court judge. In 1966 he became a Supreme Court judge, and there he was involved in a number of ground breaking constitutional cases, including McGee v. A.G. in 1974 which ‘established a general unenumerated constitutional right to privacy and authorised the private importation of contraceptives for personal use’ (Dictionary of Irish Biography).

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William J.E. Jessop (1902-1980), was a university senator between 1952 and 1954 and again between 1960 and 1973. Jessop was appointed professor of physiology and biochemistry in the Royal College of Surgeons in 1929 (at the age of twenty-seven), and served as physician at the Meath Hospital for fifty years (1930-1980). According to the Dictionary of Irish Biography ‘much of his research work had implications for the health of the nation’ and his studies led to the fluoridation of water supplies in 1952. He became the first chair of social medicine at Trinity in 1962 and was ‘regarded by his peers as having a special talent for achieving the impossible’. Elected to the Seanad in 1952, he was defeated in 1954, but re-elected in 1960. Following his retirement from Trinity he became visiting professor of chemical pathology at the University of Ife in Nigeria.

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Owen Sheehy-Skeffington (1909-1970), was a university senator between 1954 and 1961 and again between 1965 and 1970. Sheehy-Skeffington was the son of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, the pacifist campaigner murdered by a crazed soldier during the 1916 Rising, and Hannah Sheehy-Skeffington, the women’s rights campaigner. Educated at Trinity (where he was taught by Samuel Beckett), he became a lecturer at Trinity, and according to the Dictionary of Irish Biography was ‘a brilliant orator, a fearless champion of civil and human rights, and an inspiring teacher, known simply and affectionately to generations of Trinity students as “Skeff”’. Elected to the Seanad in 1954 he spoke on ‘some 300 motions, persistently assailed complacency and apathy in high places, and was dubbed “the man of the Senate” by The Irish Times’. Following his death in 1970 after a heart-attack, he was praised by the Cathaoirleach of the Seanad who noted that ‘Though few senators have not crossed swords with him at one time or another, no one could withhold admiration for his honesty, integrity, and moral courage’.

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John Nathaniel Ross (1920-2011) was a university senator between 1961 and 1965. Auditor of the College Historical Society while a student at Trinity, he famously resigned to join the British army and fight in the Second World War. Leaving the army with the rank of captain, he became a solicitor and was considered ‘the most successful Dublin solicitor of his time’ (Sunday Independent, 1 January 2012). He believed that the religious minority in Ireland must play a part in public life, and stood for the Seanad, finally being elected in 1961. According to Charles Lysaght he ‘spoke only when he had something important to say, and was brief and to the point’. As a young man he had fenced for Ireland and was national epee champion. His son, Shane Ross, was also a senator for Dublin University.

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Mary Robinson (1944-present) was a university senator between 1969 and 1989. Educated at Trinity and Harvard, she was Reid Professor of Law at Trinity. Elected to the Seanad in 1969 as an independent she campaigned on a range of liberal issues which were controversial in their day – including the right of women to sit on juries, the ban on married women from continuing in the civil service, the right to the legal availability of contraception and gay rights. Defeated in her attempts to be elected to the Dáil as a Labour party candidate, she was persuaded to run for the Irish presidency and was elected President in 1990. In office she did much to restore and enhance the prestige of the office, as she inspired people in Ireland and around the world. After leaving office she served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and is currently the Chancellor of the University of Dublin.

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Trevor West (1938-2012), was a university senator between 1970 and 1981, and again between 1982 and 1983. A graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Cambridge, he became a lecturer in mathematics at Trinity and served as Junior Dean. An enthusiastic sportsman, he wrote a history of sport in the college entitled The Bold Collegians. Elected to the Seanad he joined Mary Robinson in proposing a family planning bill legalising contraception in 1972, and at the time this was an issue that no political party would touch. Throughout his career he worked tirelessly to bridge the divide between north and south and helped bring the two communities together. He was credited with playing ‘a significant part in creating a situation where the dominance of the bomb and bullet has been replaced by a working parliament’ (Sunday Independent, 18 November 2012). Recognising the need for greater co-operation between the two islands, he organised the first ever soccer match between a team from the Oireachtas and team from Westminster, and West was captain of the Oireachtas team which included Bertie Ahern and Enda Kenny.

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Noel Browne (1915-1997), was a university senator between 1973 and 1977. Browne’s father, mother, and older brother all died of TB, and he himself was hospitalised for several months while a student at Trinity. Following his graduation in 1946 he became a doctor, and he was elected to the Dáil in 1948 as a member of a new political party, Clann na Poblachta. Appointed Minister for Health, he was determined to eradicate TB, and launched a successful national campaign. However his ‘mother and child scheme’ was opposed by the medical profession and the catholic hierarchy, and he was forced to resign in 1951. He was briefly a member of Fianna Fáil and was elected as an independent TD in 1957. In the 1960s he joined the Labour Party, and was a member until 1977. Deselected as a party candidate in 1973, he stood as an independent for the Seanad for Dublin University, and was elected. According to the Dictionary of Irish Biography he spoke in the Seanad, ‘often eloquently, on a range of issues which principally included matters like the role of the catholic church, contraception, divorce and – on one occasion – therapeutic abortion, none of which endeared him greatly to his fellow party members, with whom he was now in an increasingly distant relationship’. His biographer, John Horgan, concludes, ‘He acted as a political magnet for Irish people of all generations.. who saw him as the apostle of urgently needed social change’.

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Conor Cruise O’Brien (1917-2008), was a university senator between 1977 and 1979. A cousin of Owen Sheehy-Skeffington, he was educated at Trinity College Dublin graduating with first class honours in French, Irish, and History. He worked as a civil servant and diplomat following graduation, and came to prominence in 1961 while on secondment to the United Nations in the Congo. Briefly Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, he was a Professor of Humanities at NYU where he campaigned against the Vietnam War. Elected to the Dáil in 1969, he served as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the 1973-77 coalition government. Defeated in the 1977 general election, he was elected to the Seanad in 1977, but resigned two years later to become editor in chief of the Observer newspaper. A gifted historian and writer, he wrote numerous books, including a major biography of Edmund Burke.

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Catherine McGuinness (1934-present) was a university senator between 1979 and 1987. Catherine McGuinness is a retired Supreme Court judge, former senator and lifelong activist. In January 2012 she was appointed to the Council of State by President Michael D. Higgins.

Educated in Trinity College and King’s Inns, she was called to the Bar in 1977 and became a senior counsel in 1989. She was called to the Bar of New South Wales in 1993.

In 1979 she was elected as an independent candidate to Seanad Eireann. In 1994 she was the first woman judge to be appointed to the Circuit Court. She was appointed to the High Court in 1996 where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court in 2000.

In 2005, Ms. Justice McGuinness was appointed Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway, She was also appointed President of the Law Reform Commission in 2005 and held that position until 2011.

She has served on An Bord Uchtála, the Voluntary Health Insurance Board, the National Economic and Social Council, the Second Commission on the Status of Women, and has chaired the National Social Services Board, the Employment Equality Agency, the Kilkenny Incest Investigation and the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation.
In recent years, she has received the Lord Mayor’s Award and People of the Year Award for her contribution and long standing service to Irish society.

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Shane Ross (1949-present) was a university senator between 1981 and 2011. Educated at Trinity College Dublin, he was a stockbroker and later business editor of the Sunday Independent. Elected to the Seanad in 1981, and re-elected in subsequent elections, he was elected to the Dáil in 2011 as an independent TD. He is the author of a number of books, including The Bankers: how the banks brought Ireland to its knees (2009).

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Carmencita Hederman (1939-present) was a university senator between 1989 and 1992. She served on Dublin City Council for twenty-five years as an independent between 1974 and 1999. An extremely popular Lord Mayor of Dublin during the Dublin Millennium celebrations in 1987-88, she was elected to the Seanad in 1989.

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Mary Henry (1940-present) was a university senator between 1993 and 2007. For over forty years, Dr Henry worked as a consultant vascular physician at the Rotunda, Adelaide and Sir Patrick Dun's Hospitals in Dublin, as well as in private practice, and published many papers in scientific journals. During this time she launched many initiatives to promote women's careers in the health services. In 1993, Dr Henry was elected to Seanad Eireann where her many achievements include the campaign to introduce dental and optical benefits for the wives of insured workers and the development of new medical legislation, including the Medical Practitioners Act (2007) and the Mental Health Act (2001). Her Private Member's Bill on Child Sex Tourism was incorporated into a Government Bill aimed at stopping this practice. She was re-elected to the Seanad twice before deciding not to stand for re-election in 2007. Dr Henry was elected Pro-Chancellor of the University of Dublin in 2012.

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David Norris (1944-present) has been a university senator since 1987. Educated at St. Andrew's College, The High School, Dublin; Reade Pianoforte School and Trinity College Dublin. He was a Senior Lecturer in the English Department TCD, and a College Tutor from 1968-1996. He is an honorary member of the University Philosophical Society and the College Historical Society.

David is a member of the Royal Zoological Society of Ireland; the Royal Dublin Society; An Taisce; Irish Federation of University Teachers; Amnesty International; Irish Georgian Society and the Dublin Crisis Conference Steering Committee.

He is Chairman of the James Joyce Cultural Centre, Dublin; the North Great Georges Street Preservation Society and Friends of the Library TCD.

David has broadcast and published internationally on a variety of literary, sociological and legal topics and has lectured at international scholarly gatherings in Europe, the Middle East and North America as well as Ireland. He was also organiser of 1982 Joyce Centenary Celebrations in Dublin and Irish editor proceedings of the International James Joyce Symposium.

Internationally, Norris is credited with having managed, almost single-handedly, to overthrow the anti-homosexuality law, a feat he achieved in 1988 after a fourteen-year campaign.

David was candidate for President of Ireland in the October 2011 election.

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Ivana Bacik (1968-present) has been a university senator since 2007. Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College, Dublin (TCD) School of Law since 1996, and was a made a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 2005. She was elected a Senator for the University of Dublin constituency of Seanad Éireann in July 2007 and re-elected in April 2011.

She has an LL.B. from TCD and an LL.M. from the London School of Economics. She practises as a barrister, and teaches courses in Criminal law; Criminology and Penology; and Feminist Theory and Law at Trinity.
Ivana has lectured widely in Europe on legal, social and human rights issues. In April 2003, she was an invited speaker at the National Forum on Europe in Dublin Castle. She has been active in many human rights campaigns with a European dimension, most recently the movement against the war in Iraq and the Irish Social Forum.

Ivana was the initiator of the Law Scholarships Scheme providing access to College for students from disadvantaged schools. She was a Board member of Irish Family Planning Association until 2004 and Irish Penal Reform Trust until 2003. She is also a former Executive member of: Irish Council for Civil Liberties, TCD Lecturers’ Union, and the Irish Federation of University Teachers.

Her research interests include criminal law and criminology, constitutional law, feminist theories and law, human rights and equality issues in law. She is known in particular for her pro-choice campaigning since the 1990s.

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Seán Barrett (1944-present) has been a university senator since 2011. Seán is the current Senior Lecturer in the Economics Department of Trinity College and has enjoyed a distinguished career in academic circles along with holding high-ranking positions outside of the college, many of which have had a direct effect on transport policy and the tourism industry of Ireland.

After graduating from UCD in 1973, Seán went on to obtain a masters degree at the highly regarded McMasters University in Canada before returning to UCD to gain his PhD in Economics. Following the completion of his studies, Seán took up the post of lecturer in the Economics Department in Trinity College in 1977 and has gone on to enjoy a thirty-four year long career in the college, a stay that has seen him hold some of the highest positions of office in college and has also seen him become an integral part of the college community.

Along with his 14 year tenure as Junior Dean, making him one the longest serving Junior Deans, Seán has served as a member of the Board of College on three separate occasions and has held key roles many college bodies most notably the finance and residency committees.

As one of the original founders of the annual Kenmare Conference in 1977, Seán helped establish a crucial yearly economic summit that has attracted figures from the highest level of government and those from the upper echelons of the business world to come and share their ideas and policies at an open transparent forum for over 30 years.

With over eighty-five different publications, mostly on his expert topics of transport and social policy, he is one of the most published economists in Ireland. He has been a key figure in legislation, most notably in his role as Director of the Bord Fáilte in 1984, where he was instrumental in successful deregulation of Irish airlines, and his role as a vital member of the National Economic and Social Council since 2005. Seán was elected a Senator for the University of Dublin constituency of Seanad Éireann in 2011.

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