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Honorary Degrees 2015 - Celebrating Human Rights

Posted on 1 December 2015

Honorary Degree awardees: (back) Rory O'Neill, Tomas Reichental, Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, Fr Peter McVerry, (bottom) Senator David Norris, University Chancellor Mary Robinson and Graca Machel

Trinity recently awarded Honorary Degrees to a number of individuals who have made a significant contribution to the area of human rights.  Those conferred were: Mozambican Politician and Humanitarian, Graça Machel, Holocaust Survivor, Tomi Reichental, Artist Panti Bliss, Senator David Norris, Social Activist Fr Peter McVerry. All five candidates were conferred last week with a Doctor in Laws (LL.D) at a ceremony in Trinity’s Exam Hall on 27 November. 

From a global perspective, Graça Machel, the Mozambican politician and humanitarian, is one of the foremost advocates for women and children’s rights has been a social and political activist over many decades. She was formerly the Minister for Education in Mozambique. Her assessment of the impact of armed conflict on children continues to inform the United Nations’ work to protect children in conflict zones.   She is Founder and President of the Foundation for Community Development, an NGO that works to promote development, democracy and social justice in Mozambique. She is also founder of a series of other organisations including the Graça Machel Trust where she has focused on advocating for women’s economic and financial empowerment, education for all and a range of other issues.

The four remaining candidates undertake their work in Ireland, in a variety of roles and areas, all under the banner of defending human rights. Tomi Reichental, one of only three Holocaust survivors left in Ireland, has dedicated his time to educating Irish people about the Holocaust, as well as promote racial and religious tolerance. Fr Peter McVerry has worked with vulnerable young people in inner city Dublin for the last 40 years during which time he has campaigned tirelessly for their rights to full inclusion in society.  As a social activist Peter is a strong advocate for those who have no voice in society.  Rory O’Neill who performs as the artist Panti has been the figurehead and co-producer of Alternative Miss Ireland, raising hundreds of thousands of euro for Irish HIV/AIDS organisations.  Both Rory and Panti have entered the nation's conscience as a significant voice speaking for equality, respect and fairness for all. Panti reached out to a global audience with her Noble Call speech at The Abbey Theatre. Her speech spoke to anyone who has been considered and treated "less" in any way.  Senator David Norris, formerly a lecturer in Trinity’s School of English, has made a lasting contribution as a campaigner for human rights for gay people.  His campaign to decriminalise homosexual acts ran from 1977, moving from the High Court through to the European Court of Human Rights until in 1988 the laws in Ireland were deemed to be in contravention of the Convention on Human Rights, with decriminalisation of same-sex sexual activity finally occurring in 1993. 

Pictured on the occasion of the Honorary Degree ceremony were (back) Rory O'Neill, Tomas Reichental, Provost Dr Patrick Prendergast, Fr Peter McVerry, (bottom) Senator David Norris, University Chancellor Mary Robinson and Graca Machel

Please click here for further information on the honorary degrees: