University of Galway announces 2023 Honorary Degree recipients

Neil Johnson and Patricia Forde
Nov 20 2023 Posted: 11:50 GMT

Awardees recognised for their work in civil rights, human rights, media, traditional Irish music, the arts, medicine, philanthropy and academia


University of Galway today announced the recipients of Honorary Degrees at the 2023 Winter Conferring ceremonies.

The celebrations take place from Wednesday November 22 to Wednesday November 29, and the Honorary Degree awardees will join more than 3,000 students graduating over the six days. 

Those being recognised by University of Galway with Honorary Degrees at the 2023 Winter Conferring span the worlds of civil rights, human rights, media, music, the arts, medicine, philanthropy and academia.

Frankie Gavin (Doctor of Music (DMus)): Regarded as one of the world's greatest fiddle players, Galway's Frankie Gavin is a multi-instrumentalist and composer who has played nationally and internationally for over six decades. He was awarded the TG4 Gradam Ceoil Musician of the Year title in 2018.

Mary Warde Moriarty (Doctor of Laws (LLD)): Traveller, human rights activist and author, has worked tirelessly for nearly 50 years to advance Traveller human rights and build bridges between the settled and Traveller communities in Ireland. Co-founder of the first Tuam Traveller Support Group established in 1984. Mary was President of the European Centre for Irish Travellers and led the development of a library dedicated to the history and origins of Irish Travellers. Co-founder of the National Council for the Travelling People, the National Federation of Irish Travellers and the National Association of Travellers' Centres, she was a co-founder of INVOLVE, the largest provider of Youth Services to young Travellers.

Hugh Logue (Doctor of Laws (LLD)): First came to prominence as a Civil rights leader in the late 60s, serving as a member of the executive of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and as Vice-chair of the North Derry Civil Rights Association. A founder member of the SDLP, he was elected to the Stormont Assembly for that party in 1973, 1975 and 1981. He joined the European Commission and served in Brussels for the following 20 years as a senior Commission official. In this capacity he played a crucial role in the European Union’s contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process and to the Good Friday Agreement.

Professor Peter Piot (Doctor of Medicine (DMed)):  In 1976 Professor Piot co-discovered the Ebola virus in Zaire while working at the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, and led research on HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and women's health, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. He has worked in Europe, Africa and the US and was founding Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1995 until 2008, and was an Associate Director of the Global Programme on AIDS of WHO.  He is a recipient of numerous scientific and civic awards and humanitarian medals and has published over 600 scientific articles and 17 books.

Alan Esslemont (Doctor of Literature (DLitt)): Director General TG4, Alan was born in Scotland and has worked in France, Switzerland and the Isle of Skye. He worked here at our university, Telegael, Teilifís na Gaeilge, and TG4. He was a founding board member and treasurer of the Irish Film and Television Academy and is a key supporter of Irish-language planning and content for TG4.

Eva Bourke (Doctor of Literature (DLitt)): Highly-regarded poet and author of seven collections of poetry in English, editor of three volumes of poetry and prose in English, and translator of two volumes of Irish poetry into German; a major figure in contemporary Irish literature, member of Aosdána.

Patricia Forde (Doctor of Arts (DArts)): A graduate of our university, bilingual from an early age, she joined An Taibhdhearc at the age of ten as an actor and later directed plays there. Founder of Galway’s Babaró International Arts Festival for Children in 1996 and one of the early members of Macnas. She spent a period as Director of Galway International Arts Festival in the early 1990s. Former chair of Children’s Books Ireland.

Miriam Hand and Lourda McHugh (Doctor of Laws (LLD)): Recognised for their advocacy, leadership, and steadfast commitment to raising funds for breast cancer research through community partnerships and sporting organisations. Long-time board members of the National Breast Cancer Research Institute supporting the development of research facilities at University of Galway, established research and academic appointments, and graduate scholarships resulting in academic impact and cancer research advances.

Neil Johnson (Doctor of Laws (LLD)): CEO of Croí (Galway’s charity for cardiovascular health). Graduate of University of Galway, Honorary Clinical Fellow in the School of Medicine since 2015 and recipient of both Galway and Rehab ‘People of the Year’ awards. Neil has overseen foundation, growth and development of significant projects in cardiovascular health promotion, executed several multi-million euro fundraising initiatives and the construction of the Croí Heart and Stroke Centre Building in Newcastle.

Marie Reddan (Doctor of Education (DEd)): Retired Librarian of James Hardiman Library. Marie contributed much to the life, wealth and success of the Hardiman as a national and international centre of excellence. Marie played a leading role in the reimagining of the Library in its transition from print to the digital age, and in the archival activities of the library. Co-founder of IReL consortium of Irish Research Libraries.

Speaking ahead of the conferring ceremonies, President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “On behalf of University of Galway, I am delighted to be in a position to recognise this group of extraordinary individuals, and to recognise them at the same time as we celebrate the achievements of over 3,000 of our students across our four Colleges.  Each one has made an excellent and distinctive contribution to public life, the betterment of society and the interests of humanity, leaving the world in a better place than we found it, which is the responsibility of us all.

“It is also great to be able to mark the achievements of our outstanding graduates and those being conferred with an honorary award for the first time under our new name and our new identity and celebrate everything that Ollscoil na Gaillimhe – University of Galway stands for, whether it’s through our values, our work for the public good and being in and of our place.”

The full schedule for the winter 2023 conferring ceremonies is available at


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