By Sarah Mac Donald - 16 December, 2014
Ireland’s popular former head of state, Dr Mary McAleese, has been appointed Distinguished Professor in Irish Studies at St Mary’s University in London.
Dr McAleese will take up her position at St Mary’s in south-west London in 2016.
Her new role will involve teaching on the MA programme in Irish Studies, while she undertakes research and gives two keynote lectures at the Catholic university’s Centre for Law and Culture.
St Mary’s is the largest Catholic university in the UK. In 2015 it will celebrate 165 years since its foundation in 1850.
The University recently appointed Cardinal Vincent Nichols, head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, as its Chancellor.
Vice-Chancellor, Francis Campbell, a former diplomat who was the first catholic UK ambassador to the Holy See, said it is “a huge honour for us to appoint such a distinguished and respected public figure to our staff here at St Mary’s.”
He added, “Not only will Dr McAleese be giving us the benefit of her rich experience through her lectures, she will also be directly engaging with our students, which I’ve no doubt will inspire them as they prepare for the next important step in their careers.”
Dr Mary McAleese said in response to the announcement that she was delighted to join St Mary’s at an exciting time in its growth and development and looked forward to meeting both students and staff.
“I particularly look forward to working closely with the excellent team at its Centre for Irish Studies as it researches the continuing development of Anglo-Irish relations. St Mary’s, which has been a focus of Irish life in Britain for 165 years, has an important role to play in this work as we look to the next 100 years of close relations between our two countries,” she said.
Dr Mary McAleese served as President of Ireland from 1997 to 2011. She is a member both of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland and the Irish Bar, and a former Reid Professor of Criminal Law at Trinity College.
She was also the first female pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast.
She has recently been preparing a doctorate in canon law at the Gregorian University in Rome and lecturing as a Visiting Professor at Boston College.
The former head of state is also involved in a major new documentary on the life of St Columbanus which is part of the celebrations marking the 1,400th anniversary of the Saint’s death in Bobbio, Italy in 615.
The documentary retraces his footsteps and foundations across Europe and is due to be aired in November on RTE.
BBC Northern Ireland has commissioned an Irish language version of the same documentary.
Born around 543AD in Leinster, St Columbanus studied at the monastery on Cleenish Island, Co Fermanagh, and then entered Bangor monastery in Co Down, where he became a monk.
In 591, he set out with 12 companions for Burgundy and established monasteries at Annegray, Luxeuil and Fontaine. Later he worked in Bregenz in Austria.
His greatest foundation is at Bobbio, near Genoa, where he died in 615.