University of Limerick appoints new chancellor

Professor Brigid Laffan has been appointed chancellor of University of Limerick. Photo: Sean Curtin.

THE University of Limerick (UL) named Professor Brigid Laffan as its new chancellor after a unanimous vote from the university’s Governing Authority.

This comes after some controversy which saw the university fail to elect a chancellor last month, for the first time in its history.

UL’s Governing Authority failed to meet the two-thirds majority vote needed at its last meeting in October, when former Shannon Group chair and current chair of the Irish Aviation Authority, Rose Hynes, was put forward as the proposed candidate for the position at the head of the university’s governing body. Ms Hynes since withdrew her name for consideration for the role.

Professor Laffan, a distinguished academic and political scientist with a long history in Limerick, takes over from outgoing UL Chancellor Mary Harney, who has held the role since January 2018.

Professor Laffan was one of the very first students to attend UL, back when it was known as the National Institute of Higher Education. In 2022, UL celebrated her exceptional contribution to academia and to European affairs by awarding her an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters.

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Reacting to the appointment of the Cahersiveen native, UL president Professor Kerstin Mey said: “I am delighted with the appointment of Professor Brigid Laffan as chancellor. We are truly fortunate to have secured a person of her calibre, international profile, and abilities.”

“Brigid’s links to the university run deep. She enrolled in the NIHE’s first student intake in 1972 and went on to have an extraordinary career as an academic and an intellectual. Last year, as we marked our fiftieth anniversary, Brigid received an honorary doctorate from her alma mater. It was a wonderful day and a great privilege to recognise a long-standing supporter and ambassador, who has always spoken so highly of UL and retained her close connections with the institution, with faculty, and students.”

Professor Mey also paid tribute to the outgoing chancellor, Mary Harney.

“We owe a great debt of thanks to our outgoing chancellor, Mary Harney, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of UL since taking on the role of Chancellor in 2018. UL has benefited hugely from her vast experience, political nous, and her steady counsel over the past almost six years. We are very grateful for her service and for her immense contribution,” the UL president added.

Commenting on her appointment as chancellor, Professor Laffan said that her “decision to go to Limerick in 1972 proved to be the formative decision of my life and I, and my classmates, have retained a deep empathy and commitment to UL”.

“I have watched the university grow and flourish over the last 50 years and now, as the newly elected chancellor, I very much look forward to being part of its future.”

Since graduating from UL with a degree in European Studies, Professor Laffan has led a remarkable academic career, being appointed Emeritus Professor of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at the European University Institute in Florence and Emeritus Professor of UCD.

A former Jean Monnet Professor of European Politics at UCD, she was the founding director of the college’s Dublin European Institute, and served as principal of the College of Human Sciences for seven years before being appointed UCD vice-president in 2005, and later becoming director of the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies in 2013.

She has published 10 books and written countless journal articles and book chapters and is the recipient of the Ordre national du Mérite – an accolade conferred by the President of France.