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22 June 2024  

Annual Honorary Conferring Ceremony of National University of Ireland



At a ceremony yesterday in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, Dr Maurice Manning conferred honorary degrees in Science, Literature and Arts, as follows:

Professor J.C. Séamus Davis DSc
Lelia Doolan  DLitt
Professor Brigid Laffan DLitt
Val Noone DLitt
Brian O’Driscoll DArts

Professor J.C. Seamus Davis DSc

A graduate of UCC, now Professor of Physics at Cornell University, New York, was described by Dr Michael Murphy, President of UCC, as ‘one of the world’s most accomplished physicists’. Describing Seamus Davis’ work as utterly “ground-breaking”, Dr Murphy mentioned his discovery of the Superfluid Josephson Effect, based on the 1960s prediction of Richard Feynman and Brian Josephson that the macroscopic quantum dynamics of a superfluid could be revealed as a pure musical tone. ‘Seamus developed the complex instrumentation necessary and eventually discovered this quantum sound - the first time that a quantum mechanical phenomenon was experienced by one of the senses.’ He also referred to Davis’ invention in the 2000s of the ‘spectroscopic imaging scanning tunneling microscope’ an instrument that allows the quantum “matter waves” of electrons to be visualized (and even converted into movies), revealing many amazing and exotic quantum effects. ‘Today he is leading the world in applying his science to discover compounds that will exhibit superconductivity at room temperature, allowing the passage of electricity without loss of energy – a holy grail of science for economic and social benefit.’
Dr Murphy concluded that ‘Seamus Davis is one of the most accomplished Irish university graduates of the 20th century’.

Lelia Doolan DLitt

Professor Luke Gibbons of NUI, Maynooth introduced Lelia Doolan as ‘an actor, activist, film and theatre director, producer, writer, chairperson, lecturer, anthropologist, environmentalist, force of nature – Gael force of nature’.

Defining her as ‘one of the key figures in the formative years of RTE, then Telefís Éireann’, Professor Gibbons mentioned Lelia Doolan’s role in bringing the pioneering television serial, The Riordans, to the screen and her work as a journalist and current affairs producer of the path-breaking 7 Days programme, when she was to the fore in defending media freedom. He noted that ‘the other side of the story has been an abiding concern in all her work’ and referred to her achievements in theatre and film, describing her as ‘a visionary and an inspirational figure in Irish culture for over five decades’.

Brigid Laffan DLitt

In his citation, Professor Brian Nolan of UCD described Professor Brigid Laffan as ‘an outstanding scholar of European affairs whose impact goes well beyond the academy’.

He said that ‘she has produced central research contributions on the dynamics of European integration and on EU governance and europeanization. Her academic expertise and stature, combined with an exceptional degree of commitment and energy, have also equipped her to make very substantial contributions to national debates about Ireland in Europe’. Professor Laffan has recently taken up the position of Director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute, one of the most prestigious academic posts for a scholar focused on the study of the European Union. Prior to this appointment she held a chair in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin, where from 2004-2011 she was a Vice-President and Principal of the College of Human Sciences.

Val Noone

Professor Nollaig Mac Congáil, Deputy President of NUI, Galway, in introducing Irish Australian writer and scholar Val Noone, referred to the Irish diaspora: ‘This, the designated year of the Gathering, affords us the opportunity to re-establish and re-evaluate our connection with our celebrated diaspora who have carried our genes to the four corners of the earth. Their histories, varied and often traumatic, are inextricably linked with the history of the stay-at-home Irish and equally worthy of mention and celebration.’

He outlined Val Noone’s outstanding contribution in the field of Irish Australian Studies ‘in areas of history, language and culture which he has progressed in many practical ways over many years.’ He referred to Val Noone’s extensive writing on social history; his most recent book Hidden Ireland in Victoria, an overview of the history of Irish culture and language in the State of Victoria, Australia; his work as founding editor and publisher of Táin the magazine of The Irish-Australian Network; and his contributions to Feasta.

Brian O’Driscoll
Of Brian O’Driscoll’s exceptional career in Irish rugby, Ms Linda O’Shea Farren, member of the NUI Senate said: ‘not yet 35 years old, the iconic status Brian O’Driscoll has gained says it all. On so many occasions, he has held the hopes of this nation, north and south, in his hands and he has tread softly on our dreams. He has stayed with us all the way. He is a sterling ambassador for everything that’s good about sport, and about Ireland’.

Defining the contribution to the sport of the man who ‘has led Ireland more times than any other player’, she said that ‘Brian O’Driscoll is universally lauded as one of the greatest rugby players ever. His physicality, mentality, passion and sheer bottle, both in defence and attack, make him a threat all over the pitch and one of the most feared players in the game’.

She concluded that ‘from caps to captaincies, there is only one person about whom it can be said ‘Alone He Stands’.


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