Fintan O’Toole conferred with honorary degree by Trinity College

Former tánaiste Mary Harney and Joan Freeman among other recipients

Fintan O’Toole; Joan Freeman; Prof Mary McAleese, Patrick Prendergast, Prof Terry Hughes, Mary Harney and Michael Gazzaniga at the ceremony on Friday. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw/The Irish Times

Irish Times columnist Fintan O'Toole was conferred with an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin on Friday.

It was the first ceremony conducted by the university's newly-elected chancellor, former president of Ireland, Prof Mary McAleese.

Mr O'Toole was one of five recipients. Honorary degrees were also awarded to former tánaiste and Progressive Democrats leader Mary Harney; mental health activist and former Pieta House chief executive, Joan Freeman; distinguished professor of psychology and neuroscience at University of California, Michael Gazzaniga; and champion of climate change and marine scientist at James Cook University, Queensland, Prof Terry Hughes.

Mr O'Toole, who has been a columnist with the Irish Times for more than 30 years, was awarded a doctor in letters.


In a citation, Trinity's public orator Prof Anna Chahoud praised his commentary on major cultural and political events.

"In his essay on Freedom of the Press, George Orwell memorably wrote: 'If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.'

“We cannot but recall these words as we welcome Fintan O’Toole, proud Dubliner, uncompromising observer of Irish political, social and cultural life, and worthy recipient of the Orwell prize for journalism in 2017,” she said.

Ms Harney, a former government minister for trade and health and the longest-ever serving female TD, was praised for her contribution to public life.

Prof Chaoud said: "This woman has been a strenuous reformer, capable of effecting long-lasting improvements to environmental policies, to employment and entrepreneurship, and, most notably, to the medical profession and the health service in Ireland."

Mr Harney is a former student of Trinity and was the first first female auditor of the College Historical Society. She is currently chancellor of University of Limerick.

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien

Carl O'Brien is Education Editor of The Irish Times. He was previously chief reporter and social affairs correspondent