NUI Galway honours seven outstanding individuals with Honorary Degrees

Monday, 27 June 2005

- Honorary Doctorates conferred on Marian Finucane, Cyril Ramaphosa,
Fr Alex Reid, Prof Alim-Louis Benabid, George Clare,
Bernard McNicholas and Sean Purcell

National University of Ireland Galway recognises the achievements of seven outstanding individuals at an honorary conferring ceremony today (Friday).

The calibre of each of the individuals to be conferred reflects NUI Galway's commitment to the study and promotion of human rights and global humanitarian law. Each honouree was chosen for his or her outstanding contribution to society through social work, philanthropy, medicine, arts or culture. The conferring ceremony further underpins NUI Galway's work in enhancing the lives of Irish communities while fostering strong relationships with organisations and individuals worldwide.

The Honorary Conferring Ceremony will take place in the presence of Chancellor of the National University of Ireland and former Taoiseach, Dr Garret Fitzgerald and President of NUI Galway, Dr Iognáid Ó Muircheartaigh.

Dr Ó Muircheartaigh said, "It is a particular honour for me to welcome these seven individuals to NUI Galway to be conferred with honorary degrees. Each has given so much of their personal and professional lives to advance human rights, enrich minds and capture the spirit and imagination of millions worldwide. I am proud that these individuals will now be associated with NUI Galway, as they have had such a profound effect on communities worldwide."

Marian Finucane is one of Ireland's best known broadcasters. In a career spanning four decades she has been a transforming influence in the lives of Irish people, highlighting social injustices and encouraging social change. She is a Board Member of the Irish Hospice Foundation, which has led her to raise funds in support of the construction of an AIDS hospice and orphanage in the Khayelitsha township of Cape Town, South Africa. As part of this effort, Marian and her partner have established a Charity, Friends in Ireland, to extend their philanthropic work in South Africa.

Cyril Ramaphosa has dedicated his life to improving the lives of the people of South Africa. He is renowned for his work with the trade union movement but is also recognised internationally for the key role he has played in bringing about a peaceful end to apartheid. He steered South Africa towards its first democratic elections in 1994, when he was elected chair of the new Constitutional Assembly and became a Member of Parliament. He is currently active in the private sector as chairman of Millennium Consolidated Investments.

Fr Alex Reid has been acclaimed nationally and internationally for the crucial role that he has played in the Northern Ireland peace process. He was the key person in ensuring that dialogue was initiated between various parties at critical stages in the development of the peace process, and provided compelling moral arguments for the cessation of violence. It has been said that the peace process would not have been as successful without his involvement.

Professor Alim-Louis Benabid, chairman of neurosurgery at the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, is considered a pioneer in the field of neurosurgery. He is leading a team of neurologists developing revolutionary new methods to fight neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. The method, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), involves high-frequency electrical stimulation of the brain. Following the operation, the main symptoms practically disappear, and most patients can stop taking medication.

George Clare, journalist and author, was born in Vienna, Austria in 1920. In the aftermath of Hitler's Annexation of Austria, virulent anti-Semitism erupted and drove many Jews into exile. George's best-selling memoir, Last Waltz in Vienna (1981) was translated into seven languages and won the W.H. Smith Literary Award. The memoir tells, among other things, of how George and his mother Stella travelled to Galway for George to help set up a ribbon factory.

Bernard McNicholas is a native of Bohola, Co. Mayo. In the early 1960s he succeeded his father as head of McNicholas Engineering Ltd. Under Bernard's leadership the company has developed into one of the most professionally managed, multi-disciplinary companies in its field today. In 1993 the AIB in Britain named him Irish Businessman of the Year, as much for his philanthropy as for his business acumen. He has been a mentor and a leading figure in the Irish community in London. Among the charities he supports are Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and the John Durkan Leukemia Trust.

Sean Purcell, from Tuam, County Galway, is widely regarded as one of the best exponents of the skills of Gaelic football. An extremely versatile player, he is generally held to be one of the game's greatest ever centre-half forwards and was elected in that position on the GAA/An Post 'Team of the Millennium'. He won an All-Ireland colleges medal with St Jarlath's, Tuam in 1946, and in his career with the Tuam Stars Club, he won ten County Championship titles. He won one All-Ireland senior football medal with Galway and three Railway Cup medals with Connacht, in 1951, 1957 and in 1958, when he was captain.

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