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23 July 2024  

Honorary Conferring of the National University of Ireland


The National University of Ireland honorary degree conferring ceremony took place on Tuesday the 7th of March 2023, in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2 at 4.00 pm.

At the ceremony, the Chancellor of the University, Dr Maurice Manning, conferred honorary degrees on the following individuals who have made exceptional contributions in their respective fields:

  1. Dr Michael Lillis - DLitt - For his contribution to Irish public life

    Dr Michael Lillis


    Dr Michael Lillis was a senior Irish diplomat for many years. He worked with John Hume and the ‘Four Horsemen’ (US House Speaker Tip O’ Neill, Senators Edward Kennedy and Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Governor Hugh Carey) to negotiate the text of the ‘Carter Initiative in Northern Ireland’ of 1977, against the repeated opposition of British Prime Minister Jim Callaghan, British Ambassador Peter Jay, the US State Department and the CIA.

    Lillis was appointed Diplomatic Advisor to the Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald in 1981. In 1983, under FitzGerald’s guidance, he initiated a series of discussions with Sir David Goodall, Deputy Head of the Cabinet Office which won the interest of Mrs. Thatcher and gave rise to two years of exchanges between the two Governments. Lillis was one of the four official Irish negotiators of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on Northern Ireland, concluded in November 1985 by Taoiseach FitzGerald and Prime Minister Thatcher. This gave Dublin an unprecedented role in the system of government of Northern Ireland. On 8 December 1985 Lillis became the head of the first Dublin team resident in Belfast since Partition in the Anglo-Irish Secretariat based in Maryfield. He retired from the Irish Foreign Service in 1989 and was active in aircraft leasing in Latin America, most recently in Avolon.

  2. Dr Clair Wills - DLitt - For her contribution to Scholarship in the area of Irish Studies, cultural history, and Irish literature

    Dr Clair Wills


    Dr Clair Wills is King Edward VII Professor of Literature at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of the British Academy and Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy.  She has written widely on Irish literature and culture, including studies of contemporary Northern Irish poetry, the history of Ireland during the Second World War, the 1916 Rising, and Irish emigration to Britain and the representations of migration in post-war Europe. She has also written on women’s writing and feminism and institutional confinement in 20th Century Ireland and Britain, and has done some interdisciplinary work on how dance is studied in writing. She has a particular interest in the history of sexuality and reproduction in twentieth century Britain and Ireland.

    Wills was made an elected Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2016, and in 2020, she was made a Fellow of the British Academy.

  3. Dr Mohamed Ali Fadhil Al-Rubeai - DSc - For his contribution to science and noted contributions in public life

    Dr Mohamed Ali Fadhil Al-Rubeai

    Dr Mohamed Ali Fadhil Al-Rubeai pioneered work in the area of mammalian cell culture, apoptosis, flow cytometry and production of biopharmaceuticals. In parallel to his own ground-breaking research in University of Birmingham and UCD, he has worked with many governments, industries, and academics around the world to establish national research centres, compounding his global impact. He is one of the founding fathers of the UK Biotechnology Industry. His work was pivotal in the approval of major national funding to establish the Irish National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training.

    His impressive body of work, including his editing of various publications, membership of the editorial teams of several journals, authorship, consultancy and work as adviser to such groups as UNESCO and the Ministry of Higher Education, Iraq, reflects his broad interests in the production of biopharmaceuticals, mammalian cell culture, tissue engineering, stem cell bioprocessing, metabolic engineering, and biomaterials. For his work, he has received many scientific awards such as the Donald Medal and Asellus Prize. Further, he is a prolific writer who has written numerous articles and books in Arabic about education, identifying problems facing Arabic and Iraq’s system of education at all levels and promoting European academic values.

  4. Dr Mari Cahalane - DSc - For her contribution to the promotion and advancement of STEM in Ireland

    Dr Mari Cahalane


    A native of Gorey, Co Wexford, Mari joined BT in 2001 and has held a number of roles including Head of Sponsorship and Events for BT in Ireland, Head of Events in Europe, PR & Events Manger, Ocean Communications and also worked in Board Secretariat and also the Public Affairs Department in BT’s London HQ. She holds a diploma from Dublin Business School in Marketing and Sales. She was named as one of 10 “bright sparks” igniting the Irish STEM scene and as one of the Top 100 Irish Women in STEM by Silicon Republic in 2015.

    Mari has been involved in the BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition since 2001 when she volunteered for the first time, she became the head of the exhibition in 2009.  In 2018, as the Irish national organiser for the European Union Contest for Young Scientist, she organised and hosted the 30th edition of the event in Dublin.

Dr Manning remarked

“NUI is delighted to honour these four amazing individuals with Honorary Degrees.
Honorary Degrees hold a unique standing in Irish society and are bestowed upon remarkable
individuals with exceptional achievements and a far-reaching impact and legacy. What unites all our
conferees today is the positive and tangible impact they have had on society through their respective fields”.

Dr Maurice Manning
NUI Chancellor




Further information from:

Cora Lenihan
National University of Ireland
49 Merrion Square
Dublin 2, D02 V583
Ph: 01 4392424
Twitter: @NUIMerrionSq








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