Human rights symposium at NUI Galway celebrates the late Professor Kevin Boyle

NUI Galway President, Dr Jim Browne, with Joan Boyle, wife of the late Professor Kevin Boyle, whose archive was unveiled at the University today. A symposium celebrating the career of the human rights lawyer and activist was also held.
Nov 28 2014 Posted: 16:01 GMT

Former President Mary Robinson today welcomed the fact that the archive of the late Professor Kevin Boyle will be housed at NUI Galway. In a video presentation at a symposium taking place at the University today, celebrating the career of Kevin Boyle, she said: “I’m glad that his papers will enrich scholarship and activism from Galway for the betterment of the world in future.”

The world-renowned human rights lawyer and scholar, Professor Kevin Boyle, served as a special advisor to Mary Robinson from September 2001, when she was UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. His personal archive, comprising of over one hundred boxes of manuscripts and printed books, is a record of the varied and rich contribution made by the activist and scholar to international human rights.

Also speaking at the international symposium, ‘The Human Rights Scholar-Activist or Activist-Scholar?’ hosted by NUI Galway’s School of Law and the Irish Centre for Human Rights, was Professor Sir Nigel Rodley, Chair of the United Nations Human Rights Committee. In his keynote address he said of Kevin Boyle: “His involvement in resisting discrimination on grounds of religion during the early part of the troubles must have been the defining period of his life….He was scholar and activist and advocate; the dimensions were intricately connected.”

The archive, kindly donated by the Boyle family since Kevin’s untimely passing in 2010, has now been catalogued by the University’s James Hardiman Library, and represents a major resource for the study and teaching of human rights. It will be formally launched later today by the Attorney General, Máire Whelan, S.C. The archive includes:

  • Letters between Boyle and various others involved in the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. It offers a new and engaging insight into emotions, tensions and experiences in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s and onwards through the 1970s.
  • Key research and legal arguments on a wealth of areas from Kurdish rights, to Egyptian constitutional and legal reform, to conditions in India, China, Japan, South Africa to the UK, Ireland and Northern Ireland, offering insights into a life lived in defence of others for over five decades.
  • Paperwork from major cases, such as ‘Jersild Vs. Denmark, where a documentary film-maker was accused of inciting hatred owing to a film work he had made focusing on a right-wing group known as ‘The Green Jackets’, in Denmark.

“The Kevin Boyle archive bears witness to a life lived greatly in the pursuit of justice by a charismatic man whose indefatigable optimism influenced so many others to continue his good work throughout the world”, said Professor Donncha O’Connell, Head of School of Law, NUI Galway.

In the late 1970s Kevin Boyle joined NUI Galway where he co-founded the Irish Centre for Human Rights with Denny Driscoll in 1980. Professor Michael O’Flaherty is now the Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights: “I was one of thousands of those who were first introduced to human rights by Kevin Boyle. He had a transformative impact on our lives. As his successors in university centres such as the Irish Centre for Human Rights we seek to respect his legacy and pass on his passion for justice to new generations of students.”

For more information on the archive visit


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