24 Jan 2022

Founding UL president can send robes back in the post, says NUI head

Founding UL president can send robes back in the post, says NUI head

Dr Ed Walsh told the Limerick Leader that it remains his intention to hand back his honorary doctorate

THE founding president of the University of Limerick has been told that he can send the robes and parchment he received for his honorary doctorate back in the post, if he wishes.

Dr Edward Walsh said that the honorary doctorate recently bestowed upon former Taoiseach Cowen was a “monumental faux pas” on behalf of the National University of Ireland (NUI).

Dr Walsh said he wanted to rescind his own award as a result, as he was “amazed and dumbfounded” that Mr Cowen should receive the honour after “bringing the country to its knees”.

Speaking on the Sean O'Rourke show on RTE Radio One, the Chancellor of the NUI, Dr Maurice Manning, said Dr Walsh's request “is a first.”

“Nobody else has given their degree back and we don’t have any protocol for it. He can send them back to us and we’ll keep them in a safe place if he changes his mind.

Dr Manning said while they can “remove his name from the roll [of recipients], we can't un-doctor a doctor.”

He added that any time future editions of the roll are printed Dr Walsh's name won’t be included, if that continues to be his request.

Dr Walsh told the Limerick Leader that it remains his intention to hand back his honorary doctorate, and said he has been “inundated” with letters of support since he made his announcement last week.

A recipient of five honorary doctorates, he said the NUI “very kindly” bestowed one upon him following his retirement from UL in 1998, after 28 years at the helm.

He said that the decision to award an honorary doctorate to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern by NUI Maynooth in 2006 was also a mistake.

“In hindsight, it was, yes. But at the time he received it, he had played a very important part in the Anglo-Irish arena, and it appeared that the economy was doing very well, when, in fact, it wasn’t. At the time, I wouldn’t have faulted the NUI for doing it. It appeared appropriate and reasonable then, but it wasn’t," Dr Walsh told the Limerick Leader.

“But in the case of Brian Cowen, it was an expression of very poor judgement and what motivated it, I don’t know, whether it was political or otherwise. The fault lies with the NUI for this embarrassment and it raises questions about the quality of governance.”

Dr Walsh said he is aware that “there are many NUI graduates who are hugely embarrassed,” and said he has been surprised by the level of correspondence he has received on the matter.

He said while there are others who have questionably received honoured doctorates, “Brian Cowen stands out as the monumental faux pas.”

“I’m sure he [Cowen] did the best he could and I’m sure he’s a very nice gentleman, but as Minister for Finance and then Taoiseach he brought the country to its knees and as a result inflicted great hardship on the people. In other countries, there would be retribution was such mismanagement, so the NUI has inverted all of the norms in inviting him to receive an honorary doctorate.

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