Honorary National University of Ireland doctorate for Brian Cowen

Ex-taoiseach keeping low profile since exiting politics after collape of FF-Green coalition

The National University of Ireland is to confer an honorary doctorate on the former taoiseach Brian Cowen at a ceremony in Dublin Castle next week. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

The National University of Ireland is to confer an honorary doctorate on the former taoiseach Brian Cowen at a ceremony in Dublin Castle next week. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

 

The National University of Ireland is to confer an honorary doctorate on the former taoiseach Brian Cowen at a ceremony in Dublin Castle next week.

Mr Cowen, who retired from politics following the collapse of the Fianna Fáil-Green Party government in early 2011, served as taoiseach from May 2008, a period which coincided with the economic collapse and a period of harsh budgetary austerity in the public finances.

He was taoiseach when the State entered the bailout in November 2010, accepting financial help from the EU-IMF-ECB Troika which imposed strict conditions involving bank recapitalisation and a programme of tax increases and public spending cuts.

Mr Cowen had previously served as minister for finance in the government led by Bertie Ahern from 2004 to 2008, a period which saw public spending, bank lending and property prices all expand rapidly.

The Senate of the NUI decided to award Mr Cowen an honorary doctorate of laws in May of this year, following a recommendation from the body’s honorary degrees committee. The committee is chaired by the chancellor of the NUI, Maurice Manning.

A spokeswoman for the NUI said that Mr Cowen is expected to make an address at the ceremony in Dublin Castle next Wednesday.

Tradition

It is a tradition in the NUI that former taoisigh and presidents are awarded honorary doctorates. Ireland has no official State honours system, but the practice of awarding honorary degrees by the universities functions as a kind of quasi-honours system.

According to its website, in addition to awards honouring scholarship and creativity the NUI awards honorary degrees to “individuals, who, whether in their personal or representative capacities, through their energies, service and actions, have contributed significantly to public life, the betterment of society, or individual freedom and dignity, in Ireland, Europe or elsewhere internationally”.

Mr Ahern was conferred with an honorary degree in 2006.

Mr Cowen has kept a low profile since his retirement from politics, though he serves on the board of the Topaz energy group, previously owned by the businessman Denis O’Brien.