RIA awards Emeritus Professor Mary E. Daly with Ireland's highest scholarly honour

Posted 13 May, 2021

Emeritus Professor Mary E. Daly has been presented with a Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal, considered the highest scholarly accolade in Ireland.

The celebrated academic, who served for seven years as Principal of UCD College of Arts and Celtic Studies, received the prestigious prize for her ground-breaking historical work.

“It is a great honour to receive the Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Humanities, and the honour has special significance because it has been awarded by fellow scholars,” she said.

“At the risk of sounding pompous I see this medal as recognition of the importance of curiosity-driven research, and the contribution that the humanities can make to the wider society.’

Professor Daly is now the eighth UCD academic to receive the honour since its inception in 2005.

Awarded only twice each year, Professor Daniel Bradley, from Trinity College Dublin, received a medal for his contributions to life sciences.

“The Royal Irish Academy Gold Medals recognise and celebrate Ireland’s highest achieving academics and the international impact of their work,” said Simon Harris TD, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, in an address to the awardees.

“Over the past year, addressing our social and economic challenges has crystallised the importance of research and expertise to society, globally.

“These awards acknowledge the leading work of the academics in Irish institutions to benefit society, the international impact of their work and their support and inspiration of current and future generations of scholars.”

Professor Daniel Bradley, Dr Mary Canning, RIA President, and Mary E. Daly, Professor Emerita in Irish History, University College Dublin

First elected to the RIA in 1991, Professor Daly made made history in 2014 by becoming the first female president in the 230 year history of the Academy.

An internationally recognised historian, her work broadened the account of Irish history and the formation of the State by examining them from the perspectives of industrialisation, urbanisation, demography, women’s history, family history and the history of childhood.

These insights, and her dedication to public service, enabled her to make significant contributions to Irish public policy and public understanding.

Her pioneering 1984 book 'Dublin - The deposed capital: A social and economic history 1860–1914”, was the first major work on the urban history of nineteenth century Ireland and the first to use the state records from the Chief Secretary’s Office as a source for social and economic history.

Her co-authored 2007 book “1916 in 1966. Commemorating the Easter Rising” was the first major publication on the commemoration of the 1916 Rising, and informed the current Decade of Centenaries.

Professor Daly’s contributions to scholarship include her leadership role as a founding director of the now UCD Humanities Institute. Alongside her career at UCD, she held visiting positions at Harvard and Boston College.

She also served with distinction on state boards, most notably the Higher Education Authority, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and the Decade of Centenaries Expert Advisory Group.

The RIA’s Gold Medals, sponsored by the Higher Education Authority, were established in 2005 to acclaim Ireland’s foremost thinkers and acknowledge the global impact of their work.

Recipients are judged by their peers to have made outstanding contributions in the fields of the humanities, social sciences, physical and mathematical sciences, life sciences, engineering sciences and the environment and geosciences.

The Royal Irish Academy (RIA) is an all-Ireland, independent, academic body that promotes study and excellence in the sciences, humanities and social sciences.

It is the principal learned society in Ireland and has approximately 500 members who are elected in recognition of their academic achievements.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations