‘Queens of Venice’ receive honorary degrees at Trinity ceremony

Mary Robinson leads final honorary degree ceremony as chancellor of TCD

Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, Mary Robinson (right) chats with honorary degree recipients (from left) architects Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell and Professor Cormac Ó Gráda at the conferring ceremony. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Chancellor of Trinity College Dublin, Mary Robinson (right) chats with honorary degree recipients (from left) architects Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell and Professor Cormac Ó Gráda at the conferring ceremony. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

“Queens of Venice” Yvonne Farrell and Shelly McNamara were among a group awarded honorary degrees from Trinity College on Thursday, an event presided over by Mary Robinson in one of her final duties as chancellor of the university .

Ms Robinson will step down as chancellor of Trinity College at the end of May after more than two decades in the position. It has not yet been confirmed who will replace her in the highly respected academic role.

Speaking in Latin, professor Anna Chahoud, commended Ireland’s ambassador to France Patricia O’Brien, economic historian Professor Cormac Ó Gráda, wildlife expert David Cabot and arts patron Carmel Naughton, as well as architects Farrell and McNamara, for their contribution to Irish society.

Some 79 doctoral candidates were also awarded with degrees for their “outstanding pieces of independent study and research” at Thursday’s event.

Ms O’Brien, who previously served as under secretary general and legal counsel to the UN and is currently the Irish ambassador to France and Monaco, was described by Prof Chahoud as “an intrepid lawyer” who had “never lost her faith in the power of law” in the “midst of the worst crises of the 21st century”.

She was commended for her work in advising all bodies of the UN around violations of international law and human rights through “dialogue, diplomatic action, international treaties and peaceful resolutions” and awarded Doctor in Laws.

Influential historian

Also receiving the honour, Prof Ó Gráda was described by Prof Chahoud as “the most influential Irish economic historian or our times” who through his investigations into the complexities of Irish history and the presence of Jews in Ireland, cast a light “on one of the most significant immigrant communities in Ireland before the Celtic Tiger”.

Prof Ó Gráda’s speciality around the history of famines not only focused on hard data but also highlighted oral history and Irish-language folklore as “significant carriers of memory and trauma”, Prof Chahoud said. Prof Ó Gráda, whose publications include Black ‘47 and Beyond and Famine, was awarded a Doctor in Letters.

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, co-founders of Grafton Architects who curated last year’s Venice Architectural Biennale, were also conferred with a doctor in letters and commended for their “indissoluble partnership in craft and creativity”. Hailed as the “queens of Venice” for their work at the 2018 biennale, the pair’s architectural work was described by Prof Chahoud as “imposing but never aggressive” and “a prodigy of curves, levels, voids that create an extraordinary sense of connection”.

Wildlife expert David Cabot, who was conferred with a doctor of science, was recognised for his work as a natural scientist, writer, filmmaker, environmental advisor and ornithologist as well as his “profound commitment to environmental protection”.

Arts and architecture patron Carmel Naughton was also awarded a doctor of letters for her promotion of academic excellence in Irish art and financial support to arts groups. “Irish art and architecture owes an incalculable debt of gratitude” to Ms Naughton, attendees at Thursday’s ceremony were told.