Four exceptional individuals from a variety of fields – scientist and Chair of the Wexford Opera festival Mary Frances Kelly, former Judge Yvonne Murphy, business leader Terry Neill and poet Micheal O’ Siadhail – were today conferred with honorary degrees of the University of Dublin at Trinity College Dublin.
The degrees, Trinity’s highest honour, were awarded by Trinity’s Pro-Chancellor Shane Allwright in a ceremony conducted in Latin in the historic Public Theatre. Highlights of the day can be viewed here.
The awardees were:
Mary Kelly (Sc.D.)
Mary Kelly’s record of public service in scientific and cultural areas is second to none. A Trinity graduate (B.A. moderatorship specialising in chemistry (1977) and Ph.D. (1983), she went on to serve with distinction in two of the state’s most important agencies, as Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2002-2011) and Chair of An Bord Pleanála (2011-2018); she is currently Chair of the Wexford Festival Opera. She was appointed to direct the EPA following her work for IBEC, where she was head of environmental policy, becoming the first person outside the public sector to be appointed at Board level to this body. She led the EPA through periods of profound change including highlighting the issue of climate change. Elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA) in 2007, she served as vice-president from 2014-16, and as a member of its climate change and environmental sciences committee. In 2018 she led the third Women in Leadership Masterclass Series hosted by the RIA in which outstanding women in leading positions share their experience with younger women achievers. She was elected a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering in 2017.
The Public Orator Anna Chahoud described Mary Kelly as “a voice of reason and responsibility in modern-day Ireland, adding that she is “is a woman of substance and a woman of action, who knows how to run a tight ship, with sound judgment and good humour.”
Yvonne Murphy (LL.D.)
Yvonne Murphy was, between 1998 and 2012, a Judge of the Circuit Court. More notably, however, in her stellar work as the Chair of various investigations into child sexual abuse and the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, she shone an uncompromising and unimpeachable light onto some of the darkest events in Irish history. In 2006 she was appointed Chair of the Investigation into sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the Archdiocese of Dublin. Her Report following this investigation is regarded as a watershed moment in the relationship between Church and State in Ireland. Her 2010 Report into Child Sexual Abuse in the diocese of Cloyne raised deep concerns with the approach taken by the Vatican to complaints of child sexual abuse and led to an historic speech in the Dáil by the then Taoiseach, criticising the approach of the Vatican to this issue – which again may be seen as a watershed moment in Irish history. Finally, her work as Chair of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation and the various interim reports and the 2021 final report that it produced exposed some of the darkest consequences of institutional disrespect for individual dignity. Judge Murphy’s work in all these contexts has been commended including on the floor of the United States House of Representatives where she was praised for her ‘quest for truth and justice’.
The Public Orator noted: “She has devoted her entire life to nurture the welfare of Irish citizens, to defend the sanctity of their privacy and reputation, and to bring justice to the victims of institutional abuse, in a relentless quest for truth.”
Terry Neill (Litt.D.)
Terry Neill has combined a distinguished international professional career with a commitment to Trinity since he graduated with a BA and then MA (Mathematics & Physics). He has a Master’s degree from London Business School, where he was also a Governor for 13 years. His 30 years with Andersen Worldwide/Accenture were spent in Dublin, Chicago, and London. He was chair of the worldwide board of Andersen/Accenture and global managing partner of Accenture’s change management practice. He is a contributing author to Harvard’s book: “Breaking the Code of Change”. Since returning to Ireland in 2004, he has been a Director of CRH plc, Bank of Ireland, UBM plc, IIEA, Camerata Ireland and Wexford Festival Opera. He was chair of Co-operation Ireland in Britain and has made a constant commitment to peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. Today he works with the leadership team of The Council for the Advancement & Support of Education. CASE’s 4,000 members include Trinity. Terry is an inaugural member of the Provost’s Cabinet and Provost’s Council; and was a member of the Governing Body of the Trinity Long Room Hub from its inception. Terry Neill has been a passionate advocate for the Arts & Humanities. Over decades he has been generous with his time and support for colleagues in Trinity, and in promoting the impact of their work.
“This man is open and straightforward, non-hierarchical, comfortable with people and always willing to give them credit for their individual and collective achievements,” said the Public Orator. “That is the reason why his advice is sought widely across sectors, and he has liberally given it.”
Micheal O’Siadhail (Litt.D.)
Micheal O’Siadhail has been a leading Irish poet for several decades (as shown by the Arts Council award to him in 1998 of the Marten Toonder Prize for a distinguished career in literature) and his 2018 work The Five Quintets cements his status. The poetry in his Collected Poems (2013) has already been the subject of much appreciative critical attention by critics and commentators. In addition his very personal poetry (as in The Chosen Garden, Our Double Time, Love Life, and One Crimson Thread) alongside his more public poetry (as in A Fragile City, The Gossamer Wall: Poems in Witness to the Holocaust, and Globe) shows an astonishing range; notable also is his technical mastery of many classical poetic forms (above all the sonnet), together with his invention of new forms; his linguistic range (he is fluent in Irish, French, Norwegian, German, Welsh, Icelandic, Japanese, and Spanish, and has conversational Latvian and Catalan), which is seen above all in his collection Tongues; and his polymathic knowledge of many fields and cultures. All of those culminate in The Five Quintets, five long poems on each of five themes: Making (on the arts); Dealing (on economics), Steering (on politics), Finding (the sciences), and Meaning (on thought in many spheres, including philosophy and theology).
The Public Orator praised Micheal O’Siadhail as “the Dante of Dublin,” stating: “With the Italian master of seven hundred years ago – a key presence for him – this artist shares the command of personal and public poetry alike, the astounding range of themes, forms and metres, the deep understanding of all fields of knowledge.”