07-2008 Press Releases

Second Date Released for Ennio Morricone Concert
Ennio Morricone conducting
Ennio Morricone conducting

Fans of Ennio Morricone will be relieved to hear a second performance date has now been added after his first concert sold out within a week.

The Italian maestro behind some of the most instantly recognisable film music of the last forty years will perform his only UK and Ireland engagement this year at the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s. This is a rare live appearance by the Oscar winning film legend - undoubtedly one of the most skilled, prolific and influential film composers in history.

The Ulster Bank Opening Concert is also supported by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Tickets for the concert on 18 October go on sale today and are certain to be snapped up quickly by fans of Morricone who will savour a mouth-watering selection of some of his most unforgettable music.  His distinguished repertoire includes Once Upon a Time in America, Days of Heaven, The Untouchables, the intimate Cinema Paradiso and the enormously popular score for The Mission which starred Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons.

“It is clear that fans can’t get enough of Morricone and we are delighted to have secured a second date,” said Graeme Farrow, Director of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s. “To avoid disappointment, fans will need to book early!”

“Morricone has an immense following of music lovers across the globe. He is worshipped by names as diverse as Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, Bono, Goldfrapp, Quincy Jones, Yo Yo Ma, Renée Fleming and Celine Dion.  As he performs live so rarely, we expect fans to travel from far and wide to see him in action.  We’re proud of the contribution the Festival makes to the local economy and we expect that an act of the calibre of Morricone will make Belfast a must visit destination for a lot of people in October this year.”

Tickets for the Ulster Bank Opening Concert can be booked online at or by phoning the Waterfront Hall on +44 (0)28 9033 4455.

Media inquiries to Richard Gaston +44 (0)28 9097 1345 or e mail

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Queen's astronomers in Space 'X-ray' discovery
Colour images of the galaxy NGC2770 obtained during January and February 2008
Colour images of the galaxy NGC2770 obtained during January and February 2008

The results of a study into space, which discovered a previously unseen five-minute burst of x-rays illuminate the death of a star and birth of a black hole, are published today (Thursday, 24 July). The study was conducted by a team of European and Asian scientists, including astronomers from Queen’s University Belfast.

Published in Science Express (the online version of renowned journal Science), the exciting discovery means astronomers can continue to paint a picture of how massive stars end their lives.

In doing so, it enables astronomers worldwide to understand more about the production of black holes which are created as a result of the ‘explosion’ process.

It also aids understanding of how the chemical elements which surround us are created and injected back into interstellar gas to help in the generation of new stars.

Dr. Stefano Valenti from Queen’s Astrophysics Research Centre (ARC) said: “We may have found a new type of supernovae which could be the missing link in understanding the process between the explosion of a star and the formation of a black hole.

“While studying a supernova in a spiral galaxy, 90 million light years away, a NASA satellite  witnessed a very rare five-minute burst of x-rays, the like of which had never been recorded before. This was from another location in the same galaxy which turned out to be a new supernova, now known as Supernova 2008D or SN2008D.

“We co-ordinated an observational campaign to track SN2008D and began to piece together the data collected over one month, along with computer modelling, to understand the story of this explosion and the origin of the rare x-ray burst.”

Professor Stephen Smartt from Queen’s ARC, also a member of the science team, added “A previous independent study in the journal Nature, earlier this year, suggested we saw the x-rays simply because we were lucky enough to catch the star in the act of exploding. Our observations mean we disagree strongly with this.

“We feel that 2008D is not just any supernova but rather an unusual event. It is a new type of supernova which lies between normal supernovae, or stellar explosions, and more exotic gamma-ray bursts, which are the most luminous electromagnetic events occurring in the universe since the Big Bang.”

One of the reasons behind the team’s theory is the discovery of helium in the spectra of the supernova by Dr Valenti and Professor Paolo Mazzali of the Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics in Munich.

Explaining the significance of this discovery, Professor Mazzali said: “It was a huge surprise to detect helium in the spectra of SN2008D. This is not something normally detected in such supernova spectra. This helium layer gave us a clue that this supernova could be part of a family of massive stars that produce black holes when they explode.”

Professor Smartt concluded: “As our x-ray and gamma-ray instruments become more advanced, we are slowly uncovering the very diverse properties of stellar explosions or supernovae.

“Traditionally, gamma-ray bursts were the easiest to discover as they were the brightest events to happen in space, but now discoveries such as this one, give us variations on a theme that link these special events or supernovae to the more normal ones.

“Discoveries such as these will enable us to continue to make great advances in our understanding of space and in doing so, the world around us.”

The metamorphosis of Supernova SN 2008D/XRF 080109: a link between
Supernovae and GRBs/Hypernovae by Paolo Mazzali et al., can be found on Science Express, 24 July 2008.

Further information on the work of the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s can be found online at

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572,

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Italians 'roam' around Queen's
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac with Italian students Melania Farinelli and Giovanni Conti.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac with Italian students Melania Farinelli and Giovanni Conti.

Over two hundred Italian students are sampling the sights and sounds of Northern Ireland this summer during an intensive English language educational and cultural programme at Queen’s University.

Following the success of the inaugural programme in July last year, the students are visiting Queen’s under the scheme organized by ATC Language and Travel, in conjunction with the University’s Student Plus Directorate.

The students are travelling as part of an Italian Government Contract (Inpdap) for the teenage children of Italian Government Officials.

The group was welcomed by Queen’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Gerry McCormac, who said: “This is an excellent initiative which encourages international students to see the best that Queen’s and Northern Ireland have to offer as a centre of learning and culture, and as an exciting and welcoming tourist destination.

“We wish all our visitors a memorable and stimulating visit to Northern Ireland and hope they enjoy the excellent teaching, accommodation, social and cultural facilities at Queen’s.”

Pia Greevy, Managing Director of ATC Language and Travel, said: “When Queen’s University and ATC joined forces to offer this programme last year, I was very excited that we were able to offer Northern Ireland as a study trip location for the first time. The programme was hugely successful and has proved extremely popular this year. It gives us the chance to showcase the best of Northern Ireland and to offer our language students a high-quality learning experience at Queen’s.”  

In addition to English language classes, the students will also take part in a range of cultural events and trips to Northern Ireland’s favourite visitor attractions, such as the Giants Causeway, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Armagh City and the Antrim Coast Road. The NITB hosted a presentation of visitor attractions which the students were to experience as part of the official welcome and dinner in the Great Hall at Queen’s.

Media enquiries to Anne Langford, Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 5310 or email

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International students learn about Irish culture at Queen's

Irish culture, politics and history enthusiasts from around the world are at Queen’s University for the eighth Institute of Irish Studies International Summer School.

Forty people will meet with local politicians and church leaders during their three week stay in Belfast.

Dr Eamonn Hughes from Queen’s Institute of Irish Studies said: “As the first university in the UK or Ireland to establish an Institute of Irish Studies in 1965, Queen’s is the ideal place to learn about Ireland’s rich culture and history. The Irish Studies International Summer School provides an opportunity for people from around the world to explore Irish culture, politics, literature and language from a unique Northern Ireland perspective.

“During their visit, participants will meet with local church representatives, including Bishop Donal McKeown and Reverend Harold Good, to discuss the role of the churches in conflict transformation here. Reverend Good, who played a pivotal role in the peace process and acted as a witness for the decommissioning of IRA weapons, was recently awarded an honorary Doctorate from Queen’s and we are delighted to welcome him back to the University take part in the Irish Studies International Summer School.

“The Summer School programme also includes a meeting with MLAs at Stormont, a visit to the PSNI to learn about community policing in post-conflict Northern Ireland, a series of lectures by Queen’s internationally-acclaimed scholars, and even a ceilidh and traditional music session.”

Michael Merrifield from Saddleback College in California has been bringing students to the Summer School for six years. Mr Merrifield said: “Belfast is a fascinating city with rich history and culture and it has undergone unprecedented change in recent years. To be exposed to this culture is as much a part of the summer school experience as the academic programme itself. Queen’s University is the ideal place for my students to engage in lively debate and discussion about Ireland and Irish Studies. I have no doubt that, like me, they will find it a rewarding and enjoyable experience and return again in the future.”

The Queen’s Institute of Irish Studies International Summer School will take place from 21st July until 8th August 2008. For more information visit 

For media enquiries please contact: Anne-Marie Watson, Press & PR Unit, +44 (0)28 9097 5320, , 07814 415 451.

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Grant will help patients with schizophrenia who smoke
Dr Ruth Barr
Dr Ruth Barr

A £200,000 grant has been awarded to researchers at Queen’s to help establish why people with schizophrenia are three times more likely to smoke than the general population.

It is hoped the Medical Research Council award will help the scientists discover improved treatments for nicotine dependence - which can result in increased rates of illness and death from smoking-related diseases - as well as treatments for the symptoms of schizophrenia.

The funding will provide a three-year fellowship for Dr Ruth Barr, a psychiatrist in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, who is originally from Armagh.

Dr Barr hopes to build on research she has carried out during a fellowship at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts on the effects of nicotine on attention and memory in schizophrenia.

The effects of nicotine withdrawal will be measured on around 40 volunteers, including both those with and without the condition.

Dr Barr said: “The reasons behind the increased need to smoke in patients with schizophrenia are unclear, although certain symptoms of this illness may increase vulnerability to nicotine dependence.

“Schizophrenia is associated with cognitive impairments - including deficits in inhibitory control which may make it more difficult for patients to resist the impulse to smoke.

“We propose to investigate the effects of nicotine and nicotine withdrawal in smokers with and without schizophrenia on response inhibition, measured using a computer task.

“Cognitive abilities are believed to get worse during nicotine withdrawal and we want to establish if this deterioration is greater in patients with schizophrenia. 

“In addition, we will investigate the mechanism of nicotine’s effects on task performance using brain scanning and a measure of brain electrical activity.

“If we can understand why patients with schizophrenia are more likely to smoke it could enable us to develop new treatments for nicotine dependence and symptoms of schizophrenia.”

Dr Barr will be supervised by Professors Stephen Cooper and Professor Gavin Reynolds from the Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience in the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362,

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Belfast and Derry to benefit from lung disease research
Professor Clifford Taggart
Professor Clifford Taggart

A Queen’s University academic is to take the lead into research on a chronic respiratory condition which is particularly common in north and west Belfast and Londonderry.

Professor Clifford Taggart, a professor of Oral Science in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, has won a top European prize of €50,000 to research Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is related to smoking. It’s more common in men and those aged over 50 and symptoms include shortness of breath and coughing.

He said: “COPD is a general term used to describe a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The most important risk factor is smoking followed by aspects of social deprivation and diet.

“North and west Belfast and Derry are seen as ‘hotspots’ for the condition but I hope my research could lead to improvements in treatment for people both in Northern Ireland and further afield.”

Professor Taggart will investigate the role of a protein called Secretory Leucoprotease Inhibitor (SLPI) which regulates inflammation in COPD. He wants to find out if SLPI may be able to combat the inflammation, which causes lung damage, associated with the condition.

He explained: “COPD is an incurable, but largely preventable disease, which leads to damaged airways in the lungs, causing them to become narrower and making it harder for air to get in and out. But with early diagnosis and the right care, the progression of the disease can be slowed down allowing people to live healthy and active lives for longer.

 “Epidemiological evidence suggests there are an estimated 3.7 million people in the UK affected. With only 900,000 currently diagnosed and receiving treatment and care, the remaining people are unaware they have a disease which, if left untreated, could severely restrict their lives and eventually kill them.”

Professor Taggart will be awarded the €50,000 prize from the 2008 European Respiratory Society’s Romain Pauwels Research Fund in Berlin in October.

The Romain Pauwels Research Fund is an initiative jointly driven by the European Respiratory Society and GlaxoSmithKline to help support young researchers to understand and treat respiratory illnesses, which are currently the leading cause of death worldwide.

Professor Patrick Johnston, Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry said: “I am delighted that Professor Taggart’s work has been recognised in this way. It is a great testament to him and his team.”

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362,

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Diabetes may affect male fertility
Professor Neil McClure
Professor Neil McClure

Diabetes may affect men’s fertility by disrupting DNA in sperm, scientists at Queen’s University in Belfast have found.

High levels of blood sugar caused by the condition appear to affect genetic repair mechanisms that keep DNA stable, according to the team led by Dr Con Mallidis, a lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

The team presented its evidence at this month’s conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Barcelona.

Previously, with Professors Sheena Lewis of Queen’s University and Brew Atkinson of the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, the group had identified that there was an increased level of DNA damage in sperm in diabetics.

Damaged sperm DNA is known to reduce embryo quality, make it more difficult for an embryo to implant in the womb and, ultimately, leads to higher miscarriage rates. It is also associated with some serious childhood diseases, including cancers.

In the latest study, scientists studied semen samples from eight men with insulin dependent, or type 1, diabetes. Under the microscope, their sperm looked completely normal. But genetic analysis told a very different story.

Dr Mallidis said: "The Belfast team has shown that diabetes adversely influences male fertility at a molecular level.  Now we know that there are significant changes to biological mechanisms that translate the genetic code.

"In a process known as ‘transcription’, a molecule called messenger RNA carries genetic instructions from gene DNA to protein-making machinery in the cells.”

He added: “Sperm RNA was significantly altered, and many of the changes we observed are in RNA transcripts involved in DNA repair.

“Diabetics have a significant decrease in their ability to repair sperm DNA, and once this is damaged it cannot be restored. 

“We have found a class of compounds known as advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the male reproductive tract.

"These are formed as the result of glycation (the addition of sugar) and accumulate during normal ageing.

“They are dependent on lifestyle - diet, smoking etc - and in many diabetic complications are centrally implicated in DNA damage. We believe that they play a similar role in the male reproductive system.”

Neil McClure, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen’s Univeristy, also a member of the team, said “For too long the role of general health in male fertility has been ignored. 

“Very few centres take a detailed history from the man, concentrating instead on the female.  This basic mistake is understandable.

"Now, however, those working in this area must give greater consideration to the male and to ensuring that he is in peak health to maximise the couple’s chances of successful conception, be it spontaneous or with treatments such as ovulation induction or assisted reproduction.” 

He said that the group now intends to develop strategies to protect sperm.  Such strategies could involve changes in diet, disrupting a step in the formation of AGEs, or increasing the body's protection against AGEs, possibly through the use of dietary supplements.

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362,

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Ennio Morricone to Open Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's
Ennio Morricone
Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone will perform his only UK and Ireland engagement this year at the Opening Concert of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s.

The Italian maestro behind some of the most instantly recognisable film music of the last 40 years, will visit this island for the first time in October.

The eagerly anticipated festival opening concert, which has been sponsored by Ulster Bank Group for 20 years, takes place at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Friday 17 October, just days before Morricone’s 80th birthday. He will conduct the Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra and Belfast Philharmonic Choir, with over 100 musicians flying to Belfast especially for the occasion.

The concert will be a rare live appearance by the Oscar-winning film legend whose distinguished repertoire includes Once Upon a Time in America, Days of Heaven, The Untouchables, the intimate Cinema Paradiso and the enormously popular score for The Mission which starred Robert de Niro and Jeremy Irons.

“This is a truly outstanding and inspired choice for the Festival’s Opening Concert,” said Ulster Bank Group Chairman Dr Alan Gillespie. “By investing in the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s, we are able to bring arts events of the highest quality to Belfast. Every one of us in Northern Ireland stands to benefit from having a world class festival that puts our city firmly on the map.”

Since 2001, Ennio Morricone has played only very selective engagements in landmark cities including London, Paris, New York, Vienna and Tokyo. Other performances in his 80th birthday year include the Kremlin Palace and St. Mark’s Square, Venice.

Graeme Farrow, Director of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s said: “We are absolutely thrilled that Ennio Morricone has chosen to add Belfast to his very exclusive list of live concerts. I saw Morricone perform in London a few years ago and it was one of the most electrifying concerts I’ve ever witnessed.

“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. An event of such international significance would not be possible without the support of Ulster Bank and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Lottery scheme.

“We welcome great artists to the festival every year but it’s rare that we welcome a bona fide genius. As he performs live so rarely, we expect fans to travel from far and wide to see him in action.

“Promoting the festival as a means of encouraging people to visit Belfast is becoming an increasingly important aim for us.  We’re proud of the contribution the Festival makes to the local economy and we expect that an act of the calibre of Morricone will make Belfast a must-visit destination for a lot of people in October this year.”

Rosemary Kelly, Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland added: “We are delighted to continue our long association with the festival. The announcement of Ennio Morricone as the Ulster Bank Opening Concert is a wonderful coup for this year’s festival and we are supporting it through our Lottery programme. We are particularly pleased to see such a major investment and leadership from within the corporate sector. Ulster Bank’s title sponsorship clearly demonstrates the fact that a thriving arts and cultural scene in Northern Ireland is good for us all.”

Tickets for the concert featuring Ennio Morricone can be booked online at or through the Belfast Waterfront Hall at or by phoning +44 (0)28 90 33 44 55.

For further information on travel and accommodation, contact the Belfast Welcome Centre on +44 (0)28 9024 6609 or visit

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Queen's 'body antenna' research scoops global award
Queen's student, Gareth Conway, from Keady, illustrates one of his new award winning wireless antenna sensors with Dr William Scanlon of ECIT
Queen's student, Gareth Conway, from Keady, illustrates one of his new award winning wireless antenna sensors with Dr William Scanlon of ECIT

Gareth Conway, a Queen’s student from Keady, Co. Armagh, will receive a global award in San Diego this evening (Wednesday), for his research on wireless, wearable antennas that allow doctors to monitor illnesses and injuries remotely.

Gareth’s research, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), could make unnecessary medical visits for tests and check-ups a thing of the past.

Information on patients’ heart rate, respiration, posture and gait gathered by body sensors could be sent by radio signal to a control unit on a patient’s body, and then accessed by doctors via the internet or mobile phone. One possible use could be the monitoring of firefighters’ heartbeat, respiration and movement as they tackle a blaze.

The antennas can be fitted almost anywhere on the patient without causing significant inconvenience and are sufficiently low-profile to be incorporated into clothing or worn as part of a wound dressing. They are up to 50 times more efficient than previously available designs of the same dimensions.

The unique design of the new antennas could unlock the full potential of emerging ‘wireless body area network’ (WBAN) technology: a network of biosensors attached to different parts of a patient’s body.

Garth will receive the SEMCAD X Student Research Award 2008 by Schmid & Partner Engineering AG (SPEAG) at the 2008 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) International Symposium on Antennas and Propagation in San Diego. The awards recognise outstanding research in the field of numerical simulation of electromagnetic fields.

Gareth, a final year PhD student at Queen’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT), said: “I am delighted to be chosen for such a prestigious award, as I had competition from universities from all over the world. My research is in a novel area within the field of electronics and I am proud to be part of such an innovative team at Queen’s.

“ECIT has excellent research facilities with top class antennas and propagation measurement equipment which I couldn’t have completed the work without. Our research group will benefit enormously from the electromagnetic numerical simulation software and accelerated hardware donated as part of the prize.”

In addition to a $5000 prize, Gareth wins the latest version of electronic modeling software, SEMCAD X and a hardware accelerator for the University, worth approximately £15,000. Queen’s will present a total of three papers at the conference, including one from Gareth.

Dr William Scanlon, who is leading the Queen’s University project added: “The UK leads the world in the development of wearable communications including WBAN antennas. With EPSRC funding, our group at Queen’s, along with other related projects at the University of Birmingham, Queen Mary College and elsewhere, could help unleash the full potential of WBAN technology. We could change the way that a range of illnesses, injuries and conditions are monitored, perhaps within five years.”

Further information on ECIT is available from

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, 028 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572,

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Queen's researchers to develop 'dissolvable' orthopaedic implants
Queen's Research Team: Prof John Orr and Dr Fraser Buchanan School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Dr Glenn Dickson, School of Medicine and Dentistry and Dr Marie Louise Cairns
Queen's Research Team: Prof John Orr and Dr Fraser Buchanan School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Dr Glenn Dickson, School of Medicine and Dentistry and Dr Marie Louise Cairns

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast have been awarded a £500,000 grant to develop bioresorbable orthopaedic implants which will dissolve over time, eliminating the need for further surgery to remove them.

The project is the first from Northern Ireland to receive funding under the Department of Health’s Health Technology Devices Scheme.

The project is headed by Dr Fraser Buchanan from Queen’s School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and commercial partners include medical device manufacturers Smith & Nephew and irradiation specialists Isotron Plc.

Applications where the developed technology would potentially enhance product performance include hard and soft tissue orthopaedic devices for fracture fixation and suture anchors.

Speaking about the new project, Dr Buchanan said: “The unique technology we hope to develop will allow bioresorption from the surface of the implant initially, with retained strength within its core until natural tissue healing occurs. This will allow gradual replacement of the available space with natural tissue whilst still providing structural support.

“Queen’s holds the patent rights for this technology which involves electron beam surface treatment and will offer a significant advantage over current bioresorbable devices. Such a possibility should prove extremely attractive to medical device companies and offer them the potential to gain the market edge over opposition in a very competitive marketplace.

“If bioactive agents (e.g. nano or micro-scale additives) were incorporated within the bioresorbable polymer matrix then these could be released from the surface in a controllable manner by means of the electron beam treatment.”

Queen's is providing facilities for polymer processing and characterisation using equipment available in its Medical Polymers Research Institute (MPRI).

The team’s co-investigators are Professor John Orr, School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Dr Glenn Dickson, School of Medicine and Dentistry. Dr Marie-Louise Cairns has been appointed as research fellow on the project.

For media enquiries please contact: Lisa Mitchell, Press Officer, +44 (0)28 9097 5384, Mob: 07814 422 572,

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Queen's honour for 'absolutely fabulous' Joanna

‘Absolutely Fabulous’ actress Joanna Lumley lent an extra touch of glamour to Queen’s University graduations this afternoon when she was awarded an honorary degree.

Presenting the glamorous star for her degree, Queen’s Pro-Chancellor Rotha Johnson described her as “one of the most talented, versatile and iconic female actresses of our time.” 

Ms Johnston said: “In an outstanding and dazzling career spanning over 30 years Joanna has played many powerful and unforgettable roles on the small and large screen combined with a successful career in theatre and as a writer.

“Following starring roles in a range of popular TV programmes, including ‘The New Avengers’ and ‘ Sapphire and Steel’, Joanna Lumley went on to redefine the British comedy with her portrayal as Eurydice Colette Clytemnestra Dido Bathsheba Rabelais Patricia 'Patsy' Cocteau Stone in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’.  In what has been called a “pitch-perfect comic performance” Lumley proved her comic credentials.”

The actress, who was awarded an honorary Doctorate of the University for services to the performing arts, won the British Comedy Award in 1993, Bafta Awards in 1993, 1995 and a Bafta Special Award in 2000. She is also a renowned human rights and animal rights campaigner and is associated with more than 50 charities. 

Ms Johnston said: “Joanna Lumley, icon of stage and screen, widely recognised as an actress of enormous range, distinction and exceptional talent as well as a tireless and selfless campaigner is an outstanding role model for all women.”

Joanna has strong links to Northern Ireland.  Her husband, Stephen Barlow, was the artistic director of Opera Northern Ireland in the 1990s.  Joanna has retained her connection, visiting often and supporting local campaigning and charity work. She recently visited Belfast in support of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society conservation work and opened the Peace for Peace Movement Conference at the Waterfront Hall. She was awarded the OBE in 1995.

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Doting Dad
Rosie Steele with her father Keith
Rosie Steele with her father Keith

Director of Admissions at Queen’s, Keith Steele, is used to attending graduations as he is a member of the platform party that presides over graduation week.  Today he will take on another role, that of ‘doting dad’.

Keith’s daughter, Rosie Steele is a medical student, who won a bursary from The Institute of Medical Ethics (UK) to allow her to compare attitudes to abortion between students at the University of Oslo and Queen’s. She presented her work at the Irish National Educators conference in the College of Surgeons in Dublin earlier this year and graduates with a Bachelor of Medicine today.

Also accompanying Rosie to her graduation today will be her mother, brother and grandfather.

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3091/ 3087 or email

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Queen's graduates with environmental distinction
People and Planet has awarded Queen's a First Class honours degree for environmental performance
People and Planet has awarded Queen's a First Class honours degree for environmental performance

As graduation week draws to an end, Queen's has graduated with First Class Honours in People and Planet’s Green League 2008 for its environmental management and performance.

The University was ranked 11th out of a total of a total of 121 institutions in the table, which is sponsored by the global environmental organisation, WWF.

The league table, topped this year by the University of Gloucestershire, has been developed to drive environmental improvements across the higher education sector. In only its second year, the 2008 survey is a clear indicator of tangible changes within the sector.

The survey, which last year won best campaign in the British Environment and Media Awards, is the only league table showing the environmental performance of the UK's universities.  It ranks all universities - awarding them a First, 2:1, 2:2, Third, or Fail - based on nine environmental criteria, both policy and performance related. 

People and Planet calls upon universities across the UK to improve their accuracy, transparency and reliability of monitoring and build upon this initial shift to drive up environmental standards.

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Computer game 'Spielberg' and 'latter day Brunel' honoured by Queen's
Ray O'Rourke
Ray O'Rourke
David Perry
David Perry

Global electronic gaming pioneer David Perry and Ray O'Rourke, whose company leads the consortium managing the building programme for the 2012 London Olympics were honoured by Queen’s University this afternoon.

The two business successes were awarded honorary Doctorates in Science (for Engineering). Mr O’Rourke, originally from Mayo, was honoured for services to engineering and for business and commerce, and Mr Perry, originally from Co. Antrim, was awarded his honorary degree for distinction in computer game development and design.

In 2003, a BBC news report said that: “If video games are the new Hollywood, David Perry is a bona fide Spielberg”. He is globally recognised as a leading figure and visionary in the electronic games industry, with games recording nearly $1billion in global sales. He was founder and President of US based Shiny Entertainment. In April 2002, Shiny became a wholly owned subsidiary of Atari in a $47m deal, giving Shiny direct access to heavyweight worldwide marketing and distribution networks. He is now a video games executive working with major Hollywood studios and game development companies across the world.

As a Visiting fellow in the Creative Industries at Queen’s, he recently delivered a keynote address at the University on the interactive entertainment industry, which was attended by over 150 business leaders, researchers and representatives from government agencies.

Presenting David Perry for his honorary degree, Dr Maire O’Neill, a Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow at Queen’s, said that his achievements illustrate that local talent can compete and excel on the global stage.

She added: “Awarding David Perry with an honorary degree is a fitting recognition of his outstanding accomplishments as a programmer, developer, consultant, entrepreneur and visionary in the global video games industry.”

Ray O’Rourke is the Chairman and Chief Executive of Laing O’Rourke, one of the largest privately owned construction companies in the UK, responsible for 23,700 employees and a turnover of £2.12 billion.

His company, which leads the consortium running London’s 2012 Olympic building programme, has also delivered many high profile building projects, including the St Pancras Channel Tunnel Rail Link, Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the Ascot Racecourse, the Cardiff Millennium stadium, and Birmingham’s Bullring shopping Centre. A former Construction Industry Personality of the Year, he has been cited as being one of the top 20 most powerful figures in British engineering and architecture.

Queen’s Director of Estates Gary Jebb, who delivered the citation, said: “Ray is an outstanding example of someone who combines business with engineering and, indeed, he has been likened to a modern-day Brunel.

“He is acknowledged as a leader of immense stature in a company that is a leader in its field and in an industry that is itself leading the development of our built environment.”

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Communication key to improving patient care in Northern Ireland

Many high-profile inquiries into the health service, including the recent McElhill report, have criticised how information is communicated within health trusts and other agencies.

Now, with the 60th anniversary of the NHS on Saturday, a Queen’s academic is leading the drive to address the challenges presented by an ever-demanding health service, with a focus on improving teamworking and communication between health professionals.

Dr Melissa McCullough, a lecturer in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, is behind the MSc in Interprofessional Health and Social Studies, which will bring together a range of health and social care professionals who can learn from and about each other to improve the communication and quality of care they provide.

The course is being run in conjunction with the Beeches Management Centre in Belfast, and Dr McCullough said it would provide cutting edge training for health professionals.

She said: “While health and social professionals are on the whole good and caring people, trying to do the best they can, they face challenges of lack of resources and time.

“The McElhill report highlighted deficiencies in leadership, teamworking, communication and management support which need to be tackled across health trusts at a training level to provide better standards of care.”

“Interprofessional education allows the development of a collaborative culture which enhances heath and social care services. It also enhances the working environment for health and social care professionals.

“Key drivers in establishing the course have been the tragedies and subsequent lessons learned from cases such as the Victoria Climbie Inquiry and the Kennedy Report of the Bristol Royal Infirmary. 

“Recommendations from local enquiries including the O’Neill report, the McCartan review and the investigation into Janine Murtagh’s death have also been a key factor in establishing the need for the course and interprofessional education initiatives within Northern Ireland.”

The qualification also takes into account many of the steps identified in the 2007 report from the Department of Health entitled Creating an Interprofessional Workforce: An Education and Training framework for Health and Social Care.

Through collaboration with the Beeches Management Centre, Queen’s hopes to recruit a range of practicing health and social care professionals including doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers, dentists, pharmacists and managers. It will focus on personal and interpersonal effectiveness, interprofessional theory and practice, managing service delivery, leadership, and ethics and law in health and social care practice.

Course details can be found on the Queen’s University Belfast, School of Medicine and Dentistry website. The course begins in September and can be completed part-time over two or three years, attending two half days per month.

Applicants should normally have at least three years working within their profession and will need approval from their employing organisation as a large proportion of assessment is project based within the workplace.

For more information on the course go to  or applications can be made online at

For media enquiries please contact: Andrea Clements, Press and PR Unit,+44 (0)28 90 97 5391, Mob 07980 013 362,

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Queen's honours Northern Ireland peacemakers
Fr Alec Reid
Fr Alec Reid
Rev G Harold Good
Rev G Harold Good

Two of Northern Ireland’s best-known clergymen – Rev Harold Good and Father Alec Reid – who played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process, were today honoured by Queen’s University.

At this morning’s graduation ceremony, the two churchmen – who acted as witnesses for the decommissioning of IRA weapons, were awarded honorary Doctorates of the University for services to the community.

Queen’s Professor of Politics Richard English, who delivered the citation, said: “It is clear that both Father Reid and Reverend Good have made important and distinctive contributions to the development of peace in Northern Ireland. The most publicised instance of this came in 2005, when the two men were asked to verify – as independent witnesses of recognized integrity - the decommissioning of IRA arms.

“They have both, in their own ways, been lastingly and impressively committed to ending political violence in Northern Ireland. They embody a strand of Northern Ireland’s recent past which will, I believe, come to be more and more recognized as the histories of those bloody years come to be written in ever-more detail: namely, the Christian contribution, amid difficult and bloody conflict, towards reconciliation, dialogue, and the sincere pursuit of peace.”

Father Reid, who was born in County Tipperary, entered the Redemptorist Order in 1950. Ordained a priest in 1957, he spent almost 40 years at the Clonard Monastery in Belfast. He has, more recently, joined the Redemptorist community at Marianella in Dublin.

Professor English said: “During his years in Belfast, he made an immense contribution to the life and welfare of those whom he encountered. He helped facilitate the process of shifting militant Irish republicans from their ‘armed struggle’ towards more peaceful and conciliatory politics in the North of Ireland. This was a vital contribution. He was trusted and respected by people from various wings of nationalist Ireland, and his talks with a range of bodies and individuals played a key part in Northern Ireland’s movement from violence towards peace.”

Reverend Harold Good was born in Londonderry and ordained a Minister of the Methodist Church in 1962. His distinguished career – which included Ministry in the Shankill area of Belfast - culminated in his election as President of the Methodist Church in Ireland for 2001-2. He has also served as Director of the Corrymeela Centre for Reconciliation, and as a member of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. He was awarded an MBE in 1970, and an OBE in 1985. Following his retirement from the ministry in 2002, he has lectured both in Edgehill College and at Queen’s University.

Professor English said: “Through all of this, he has been impressively committed to the process of reconciliation between the divided communities of Northern Ireland. His well-deserved reputation here rests in part on his having experienced first-hand – like Father Reid – some very grim aspects of what has occurred in this part of the world during recent decades. He has remained committed to reconciliation none the less and, like Father Reid, he has remained committed to dealing directly with paramilitaries as well as their victims, in the belief that this has been a necessary part of a Christian ministry devoted to making peace.”

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Christian Mentoring Award Student Graduates
Graduate Sharon Heron with the plaque she received for her PhD award
Graduate Sharon Heron with the plaque she received for her PhD award

Bangor student Sharon Heron (47) graduates today with a PhD that has won an award for excellence in research in the area of Christian mentoring.

Sharon won the $1000 award after attending and presenting her PhD, Mentoring in the Christian Community: Issues of Definition and Evaluation, at a conference at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado. The paper found that mentoring provides a more holistic and formational educational experience.

Sharon’s PhD has generated much acclaim, and has led to her being invited to speak at conferences in Rome, Minneapolis, Denver and Oxford.

Sharon graduates from Queen’s today for the third time, having passed through the doors of the Whitla Hall in 1983 and 1997.  She will be accompanied by her mother Caroline, sister Gillian and friend Joanne.

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3087 or email

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Special Day For Spouses
Husband and wife Colin and Debra Anderson graduated together today
Husband and wife Colin and Debra Anderson graduated together today

Graduation will be an extra special occasion for spouses Colin and Debra Anderson today as they are both awarded a Bachelor of Divinity.

The couple from Bangor and who live in Helen’s Bay have been married for 20 years. They became study rivals when they embarked on the course in 2005. The healthy competition paid off today when both Colin and Debra were awarded with 2:1s.

Debra said: “With any study you are keen to know how you are progressing in comparison to other students and we were no different. We were both very open with each other in terms of our marks, although every now and then a bit of banter ensued over who got the highest marks - especially when it came to Greek and Hebrew results!”

Colin is currently an Assistant Minister in St John’s Presbyterian Church Newtownbreda and plans to enter into full-time ministry of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. Debra, who works in the civil service, took a career break to study alongside Colin and develop her theological knowledge in order to provide support in his new role.

The couple said: “We are both absolutely thrilled at the prospect of graduating together and regard it as a privilege to have studied full-time at university. We have found the course both challenging and uplifting and are definitely graduating with fond memories of Queen’s.”

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3087 or email

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The 'Rose of Degree'
Iona Quinn was awarded a BA in Liberal Art and English yesterday
Iona Quinn was awarded a BA in Liberal Art and English yesterday

Tyrone Rose Iona Quinn graduates today from Queen’s University. Iona, from Derrylaughan made it through to the regional finals of the Rose of Tralee competition last month.

A Liberal Arts and English student at St Mary’s University College, 21-year-old Iona will be accompanied by proud parents Kevin and Jacinta Quinn today.

Iona says of her title as Tyrone Rose: “It is such an honour to be crowned a Rose and I don’t doubt that both St Mary’s and Queen’s have contributed to my personal qualities which assisted me in achieving the title.”

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Students Specialise In Multi-Tasking
Patsy Baissangourov who had two children whilst studying for her degree graduated with a BA in Early Childhood Studies
Patsy Baissangourov who had two children whilst studying for her degree graduated with a BA in Early Childhood Studies

Four years, 24 women, nine babies and two weddings - those are the vital statistics of the women of the Stranmillis BA Early Childhood Studies part-time outreach course in Monaghan who will celebrate their graduation today.

Patsy Baissangourov from Letterkenny began the course with no children and finished with two. Her son Aaron (3), was born during Patsy’s first year and daughter Aisling (10 months), was born in July 2007 before Patsy’s final year.  Both will watch their mum graduate today.

Patsy said: “The outreach course at Monaghan is a great way for working multi-tasking mothers to further their education. I think we’re a great example of the modern ambitions of women today, studying and working all while running a family. Graduating is such an achievement for us all, but probably a bigger relief for our husbands!”

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3091/ 3087 or email

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BBC Wildlife presenter and musical Marcella are Graduate and Student of the Year

The presenter of the BBC’s popular 'Big Cat Diary' series, Jonathan Scott, and inspirational singer and music student Marcella Walsh are this year's Queen’s University Graduate and Student of the Year.

The Awards were announced at the University’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday evening.

Announcing the Graduate of the Year Award, Oonagh Ferrity, Vice-President of Queen’s Graduates’ Association, said: “Jonathan Scott, who graduated from Queen’s in Zoology in 1972, has made a remarkable contribution to wildlife and conservation.

“He is best-known for his BBC Wildlife documentaries, but he has also co-presented a wildlife series in the United States, written and illustrated a number of books and won the Prudential Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award for his photo of a wild dog catching a wildebeest.”

She added: “Jonathan has also brought us spell-binding documentaries featuring other animals. In 2005 he co-presented the first of the Big Bear Diaries and more recently Elephant Diaries. He will be back on our TV screens this October for a new Live Big Cat Diary and I am sure I speak for us all when I say this series is very eagerly awaited.”

The Award was collected on Jonathan’s behalf by his sister, Caroline.

Student of the Year Marcella Walsh, from Cliftonville Road in Belfast, was described by Students’ Union President Ciarnan Helferty as “an inspiration to others”.

One of the best young sopranos of her generation, with a repertoire ranging from classical to Irish traditional, jazz and modern music. Marcella is the current President of Queen’s Music Society. This club, which she helped increase in membership from 120 to over 350, recently won the ‘Most Improved Society’ title at Queen’s. Marcella also developed a philanthropic aspect to the Society in the guise of an educational bursary for its best performer of the year.

Marcella was one of the main contributors to the setting up of a student-led choir and orchestra within Queen’s, which now boasts over 100 performing members. She was a driving force in initiating a new series of ‘Drive Time’ concerts and has pioneered a new mentoring scheme for undergraduates in the School of Music.

Outside Queen’s Marcella has been active in St Peter’s Cathedral Choir and Belfast Music Society and with Chor Loch Lao, Northern Ireland’s only Irish language choir. She has carried out voluntary work with the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People and with the Northern Ireland Youth Forum.

Delivering the citation for the Award, Ciarnan Helferty said: “Marcella has made a considerable impact on the lives of students and staff in the University, as well as in the wider community. She is an excellent role model for her peers, and as a performer has given great pleasure to many audiences in her three years at Queen’s.”

The Graduate and Student of the Year Awards were launched in 1999 by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association and the University’s Development and Alumni Relations Office, with the support of First Trust Bank. The Awards aim to recognise excellence, achievement or service by Queen’s alumni and students, either to the University or to the wider community.

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3091 / 3087 or email

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Cambridge Vice-Chancellor in tribute to Queen's
Richard Lambert
Richard Lambert
Harvey McGrath
Harvey McGrath

The Vice-Chancellor of one of the world’s most famous universities today paid tribute to Queen's.

Professor Alison Richard who, as the first full-time woman Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, is presiding over major initiatives in research, education and finance, was honoured today by the Belfast university.

At this morning’s graduation ceremony she was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Social Sciences for distinction in social sciences and for services to higher education.

In her graduation address, she said: “It is a proud, exciting, and amazing moment to be so honoured by this distinguished University - for Queen’s has a tremendous reputation: in its 100-year history it has placed itself in the top handful of universities in the UK, and the UK system of higher education, in turn, is one of the most successful and most vibrant in the world. In celebrating 100 years of history and distinction, Queen’s is celebrating its full and leading contribution to this success.

“The pride I feel today is that UK universities, with Queen’s to the forefront, are a real asset to our society and to the world, and to receive an honorary degree here is to be honoured indeed.”

Professor Alison Richard became Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge in October 2003. A distinguished anthropologist, she took up the post after more than nine years as Provost of Yale, a role in which she oversaw the major strengthening of Yale’s financial position and significant growth in academic programmes.

Delivering the citation, Queen’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said Professor Richard’s achievements were publicly acknowledged last year when Cambridge was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year title.

He added: “In its editorial, the newspaper said that Cambridge’s ability to compete on an equal footing with much richer American institutions is a tribute to its financial efficiency and its intellectual capacity. It is also a tribute to its Vice-Chancellor.

“The newspaper also said that the award recognised not only how Cambridge was tackling current issues but how it was building for a future where it will continue to be a dominant force in world academia. Under the direction of Professor Richard there is no doubt that this will happen. “

At Queen’s University our mission to enhance our position as a world-class centre of excellence in research and education is articulated in three simple words – leading, inspiring, delivering.

“These words could also be used to describe our honorary graduand. As a distinguished researcher and as an academic leader of international stature, she has led, inspired and delivered.”

Belfast-born business leader and philanthropist Harvey McGrath, named in the Guardian as one of the UK’s 50 most influential unelected personalities, and CBI Director-General Richard Lambert were honoured by Queen’s this afternoon. Both were awarded Doctorates for service to business and commerce.

Harvey McGrath is the former Chairman, and currently a non-executive director, of Man Group Plc. The company is one of the world’s leading specialist fund managers and largest futures brokers, a member of the FTSE 100 index of leading shares and sponsors the Man Booker Prize, the Man Booker International Prize and the Man Asian Literary Prize.

In the non-profit area, Harvey McGrath chairs London First and the East London Business Alliance. He is also governor of a further education college in Tower Hamlets and is active in a number of charities, including New Philanthropy Capital, a research based charity focusing on advising donors. Most recently he has been appointed interim Chairman of the London Development Agency by the new Mayor, Boris Johnson.

Richard Lambert, author of the influential Lambert Review of Business-University Collaboration became Director-General of the CBI in July 2006. He is a former Editor of the Financial Times. He joined the paper in 1966, becoming financial editor in 1979. In 1982 he moved to New York as the Bureau Chief, returning to the UK a year later as Deputy Editor.

He became Editor in 1991 and during his 10 years in charge he played a pivotal role in refocusing the paper as a more UK-centred title, almost doubling its circulation during his time at the helm. He also expanded the publication by creating New York, Frankfurt, Tokyo, and Paris editions and also moved the paper online.

In 2003 he became the first non-economist ever to sit as an external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee.

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3091 / 3087 or email

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Proud Mum Awarded First

Graduating from Queen’s today, Mary Farrelly from Stewartstown Avenue in West Belfast gives a whole new meaning to the word ‘determination’. The Economics and Management student began university at 18 whilst seven months pregnant in 2004 and attended classes right up until the day of her daughter Mia’s birth in November 2004.

After only three weeks off, she returned to class in time to catch up for the January exams.

Since then, Mary has completed a year’s placement at PriceWaterhouseCoopers and has deferred a job offer from the Royal Bank of Scotland in order to return to Queen’s next year to do a Masters.

Mary said: “Without the support of Queen’s services and staff, graduation would not be happening at all today. It was always quite hard to balance the care of my daughter with studying and keeping up with my studies but fortunately, Mia got a place in Queen’s crèche. She has been there since she was six weeks old and loves it. I’m so proud that she will see me graduate today.”

When asked if she had any advice for other young mothers in her position, Mary said: “Make sure you avail of many of the services open to students, from financial advice in the SU to careers advice in Queen’s Student Guidance Centre. There is so much help available to make the transition into higher education that little bit easier; you have nothing to lose yet so much to gain.”

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Queen's honours Nelson Mandela in Centenary YearQTV News Story

Nelson Mandela has accepted a unique honour from Queen’s to mark its centenary as a University.

The former President of South Africa, regarded as one of the most important figures of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, will formally become the University’s Centenary Honorary Graduate at a ceremony tonight.

The Nobel Peace prizewinner, who led the struggle against apartheid, receives an honorary Doctorate for distinction in public service. In his citation, Queen’s Chancellor Senator George Mitchell will describe President Mandela as “an inspirational figure”.

Born in 1918, just 10 years after Queen’s received its Royal Charter, Nelson Mandela was elected his country’s first black president in 1994. As South Africa’s most famous ambassador, he continues to play a leading role in the search for peace in conflict zones around the world.

His work for peace was recognised in 1993 when he was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace prize with President FW de Klerk.  

President Mandela is one of thousands of graduands who will be joining Queen’s alumni family this week in the annual summer graduation ceremonies. His degree will be conferred at a special ceremony which takes place during the University’s Graduation dinner this evening.

Senator Mitchell said: “Nelson Mandela was the 11th President of South Africa, but the first to be elected in democratic elections which were free, fair and open to people from all races and backgrounds.

“He is an inspirational figure and a global statesman whose courage and leadership brought about healing within a nation divided by apartheid.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Gregson said: “In honouring Nelson Mandela in our Centenary year, Queen's recognises a global citizen who has shown us what can be achieved by selfless commitment to justice, equality and reconciliation."

President Mandela, who cannot be in Belfast for the occasion, has received a copy of his degree parchment from Sir Anthony O’Reilly, and he has recorded a special message which will be relayed to the audience at tonight’s ceremony.

Sir Anthony, who holds an Honorary Doctorate from Queen’s and is a close friend of the former president, said: “It was a real honour for me to hand over the parchment on behalf of the University.  Nelson Mandela is an exceptional human being. He has been honoured around the world, but he told me that this award was very precious to him.

“He is a great friend of Northern Ireland, and he is proud of the role South Africa played in supporting the peace process here.”

Accepting his honorary degree, President Mandela said: “Thank you for the honour bestowed upon us today. My grandchildren will be impressed when I can boast I have an honorary doctorate from such an esteemed institution.

“Queen’s University Belfast plays a central role in the life of Northern Ireland and is key to its future.”

In his message, President Mandela thanked the student body for naming Mandela Hall after him as part of the worldwide opposition to apartheid, and he said: “In honouring us, you honour the people of South Africa too.”

Tonight’s ceremony is another milestone in the Queen’s Centenary celebrations which have included the Royal visit to Queen’s in March by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. This historic event was also attended by one of the University’s most eminent alumni, President of Ireland Mary McAleese.

And, in May, leaders in law, politics, academia and community work from around the world gathered at Queen’s for the Mitchell Conference on the lessons to be learned from Northern Ireland’s experience of peace-building and regeneration. During this event, former UK and Irish premiers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern were awarded honorary degrees for their contribution to peace in Northern Ireland.

A series of prestigious academic conferences, cultural and social events, a number of special honorary graduation ceremonies and a Centenary ecumenical service will also take place during 2008.

Media inquiries to the Press and PR Unit on + 44 (0) 28 9097 3091 or email

 Queen's honours Nelson Mandela in Centenary Year

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Queen's Graduate Embarking on Mission in Uganda
First class graduate Lisa Collins with her mother Margaret
First class graduate Lisa Collins with her mother Margaret

Lisa Collins (23) from Omagh not only worked towards a degree in her final year at Queen’s, but also managed to organise and fund-raise a complete volunteer mission to an orphanage in Uganda. The multi-talented student graduates today with a first class BA degree in English and Modern History.

Lisa will depart with five other volunteers to Southern Uganda on 7 August to complete a 20 day recreational, sport and educational programme in an orphanage that she sourced and approached herself. It is the first mission for the project that Lisa plans to sustain year on year.

Lisa said: “It’s been extremely difficult juggling the project with my final year but it is something that I have always wanted to do, and last summer I decided to actually try and make it happen. Hopefully we can make a real difference by returning each year and building relationships with the children.”

Lisa is also the winner of one of only six awards from the Department of Employment and Learning within the History and Social Anthropology Department that allows her to complete a Masters in American History. She will return to Queen’s in September to begin her studies.

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From Robes to Ramallah
James Draper who will travel to Ramallah after graduation
James Draper who will travel to Ramallah after graduation

Queen's student James Draper (22) from Hertfordshire, is due to trade in his robes for a life in Ramallah after graduation today.

James is to spend five weeks teaching English in a United Nations Palestinian refugee camp in the capital of the West Bank this summer.

James said of his trip: “The Palestinian people are amongst the most oppressed in the world; and those living in refugee camps exist under very tough conditions, and in a state of political tension that often turns violent. My hope is, that by running the English language summer scheme, I can both help equip Palestinian young people to succeed in education and employment, as well as providing a fun and stimulating environment in the otherwise tough surroundings of the refugee camp.”

James will graduate with a first class BA(Hons) in Modern History and Social Policy today and plans to celebrate by travelling around the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt after his teaching work in Ramallah.

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Actor James Ellis in starring role at Queen's graduation QTV News Story
James Ellis
James Ellis
Professor Laurie Taylor
Professor Laurie Taylor

Veteran Belfast-born actor James Ellis, star of ‘Ballykissangel’, ‘Dr Who’, the ‘Billy’ plays and the classic 1960s series ‘Z Cars’,  took to the stage in a new role today when he was awarded an honorary degree at Queen’s University.

At this morning’s ceremony he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of the University for services to the performing arts.

On of the most gifted actors of his generation, James Ellis has, for more than 50 years, performed in theatre, television and film. He is also an accomplished director and talented writer, with collections of poetry and short stories to his credit.  In Northern Ireland, he was the key figure in staging Sam Thompson’s acclaimed play, ‘Over the Bridge’ in Belfast.

Delivering the citation, Professor David Johnston, Head of the University’s School of School of Languages, Literatures and Performing Arts, said: “As an actor, director and writer, James Ellis’s contribution to the performing arts is of the highest order.  A lifetime’s commitment to honesty and integrity of performance was heralded by his decision to direct Sam Thompson’s ‘Over the Bridge’ in 1960. This was a triumph of moral integrity, a moment when the modern theatre in Northern Ireland asserted its independence and determination to contribute to the key debates of civic life.”

Sharing the stage with James Ellis was broadcaster, columnist and sociologist Professor Laurie Taylor who was awarded an honorary Doctorate of the University for contributions to social sciences and for services to broadcasting.

A visiting Professor in Politics and Sociology at the University of London, Professor Taylor is a fellow of Birkbeck College and holds visiting professorships at the London Institute and Westminster University.  He is the author and co-author of 14 books on communication, social psychology, motivation, attitudes to change and the nature of identity in the modern world.  He is also a regular newspaper columnist and writes a weekly satirical column for Times Higher Education, the ‘trade journal’ for UK academics. 
His appearances on television include Did You See?, The South Bank Show, The Late Show, Everyman, The Media Show, Newsnight and Right to Reply. 

Queen’s Professor Mike Tomlinson, who delivered the citation, said: “To social scientists, Laurie Taylor is the author of many inspiring works. To the wider public he has been a familiar face and voice on the serious and not-so-serious side of TV and radio for more than 20 years.  Through his teaching and writing, his work in radio and television, his public speaking, and his ability to make us laugh at ourselves, he has enriched our thinking on the key issues of the day in many ways.”

At this afternoon’s ceremony honorary degrees were conferred on Booker Prize winning Irish author Anne Enright and leading historian Professor Donald Akenson. Both were awarded Doctorates of Literature, Professor Akenson for distinction in history and Anne Enright for distinction in literature.

A former television producer and director for RTE in Dublin before embarking on a full-time writing career, Anne Enright won the 1991 Rooney Prize for Irish Literature for The Portable Virgin, a collection of short stories, She has also won the Davy Byrne’s Irish Writing Award, the Royal Society of Authors Encore Prize and, in October 2007, was awarded the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Gathering.

Professor Ellen Douglas-Cowie, Dean of Queen’s Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science, described her as an “amazing writer”, saying: “For me reading her has evoked raw emotions and, along with readers all over the world I would like to say thank you for that experience. Queen’s is proud to honour Anne Enright. We have a long association with famous writers of this island, and it is fitting that Anne Enright joins that family.”

A graduate of Yale and Harvard, Professor Akenson is widely recognised as the leading historian of the Irish diaspora worldwide, having written on the Irish in the United States, Canada; the Caribbean; Australia; New Zealand and South Africa. 

Delivering the citation, Queen’s Professor David Hayton, Head of the School of History and Anthropology, said: “Few if any scholars have contributed as much as Professor Donald Akenson to our understanding of the history of Ireland, and of the Irish peoples across the world.

“We honour him today for his contribution to the discipline of history, his contribution to literature, and his contribution to the advancement of Irish Studies not just in an Irish, but in a global context.”

Professor Akenson is the winner of a series of book prizes including the Trillium, Landon and Chalmers prizes.  In 1996, he was also awarded the Molson Prize, in recognition of his lifetime contribution to Canadian culture. His book Small Differences, on Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, was named in the Guardian as one of 10 essential works on Irish history.  

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3091 / 3087 or email

Graduation, the social highlight of the year

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Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Student Celebrates Graduation
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor Seán Duncan
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma survivor Seán Duncan

Belfast student Seán Duncan will graduate from Queen’s today after a two-year long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Seán, a BA Film Studies student, was forced to leave his final year in 2006, after being diagnosed with the advanced form of cancer that attacks white blood cells. After receiving chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, he was unable to walk properly or eat and his weight dropped to eight stone.

Despite the setback, Seán managed to complete a module whilst receiving treatment and returned to his studies this year. For his final piece, Seán directed and edited a horror movie called The Intruder. The film has been received well and is set to be entered to film festivals later in the year.

Seán says of his recovery: “Returning to university was a challenge, both mentally and physically, because I’m still in pain almost daily, but the lapse in my education made me more determined than ever to gain my degree and break into television or film as a director.”

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£25k Awards Students Graduate
Members of the Transtow group (clockwise l-r) Dylan Carleton, John Orr, Robert Best, David Shanks, Chris Turner and Caroline Newe
Members of the Transtow group (clockwise l-r) Dylan Carleton, John Orr, Robert Best, David Shanks, Chris Turner and Caroline Newe

A group of Queen’s Mechanical Engineering students who have been shortlisted for a prestigious £25k award for new entrepreneurs will graduate today.

The group of six, called ‘TranStow’ have reached the final ten of the competition with their ‘Retract-a-Seat’ design, a product intended to ease the use of high-floor buses for wheelchair users.

They graduate today knowing that they have won the Undergraduate Prize of £1,000, as they are the only student group to be short-listed. The first prize of £10,000 will be announced at The Entrepreneurs Ball in September.

The group consists of Robert Best (Templepatrick, Co. Antrim), Dylan Carleton (Drum, Co. Monaghan), Caroline Newe (Magherafelt, Co. Derry), John Orr (Rathfriland, Co. Down), David Shanks (Tandragee, Co. Armagh) and Chris Turner (Bangor, Co. Down).

Caroline said today: “We really believe that the ‘Retract-a-Seat’ has tremendous potential as an aid to greater mobility and will make a difference to wheelchair users, bus operators and passengers alike.

“It would not have been possible without input from Translink and Wrightbus and, in particular, the help and assistance provided by staff in the School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at Queen’s.  The advice and support from staff, both academic and technical proved invaluable throughout the lifetime of the project.”

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Joanna Lumley and James Ellis 'star' at Queen's Centenary Graduations QTV News Story

What graduation means to Queen's

'Absolutely Fabulous' star Joanna Lumley and Belfast-born actor James Ellis are among those to be honoured by Queen’s University this week during its Centenary Graduation ceremonies. Both will receive Doctorates of the University for services to the performing arts.

Honorary degrees will also be conferred on Northern Ireland peace campaigners Rev Harold Good and Father Alec Reid, Man Booker prize winning Irish novelist Anne Enright and former Queen’s Pro-Chancellors Lady McLaughlin and Dr Chris Gibson.

Also receiving honorary doctorates are Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge Professor Alison Richard, distinguished historian Professor Donald Akenson, journalist and broadcaster Professor Laurie Taylor and eminent haematologist Dr Chitra Bharucha, Vice-Chairperson of the BBC Trust.

Several business leaders feature on the roll of honour. Honorary degrees will be awarded to philanthropist and former Chairman of investment firm Man Group Plc Harvey McGrath; Richard Lambert, Director General of the CBI; and Ray O’Rourke, Chairman of construction company Laing O’Rourke. Computer game entrepreneur David Perry and Director General of the Science Foundation, Ireland, Dr Frank Gannon will also be honoured.

Leading Irish academics Dr Hugh Brady, President of University College Dublin, and Dr John Hegarty, Provost of Trinity College Dublin, will also receive honorary doctorates.

The week’s graduation ceremonies will be streamed live online at

Honorary degrees will be awarded as follows:

Monday 30 June:

10.30am   Dr John Hegarty   LLD for services to higher education.  
2.30pm   Professor Frank Gannon   DMedSc for distinction in medical science.  
  Dr Hugh Brady   LLD for services to higher education.  
7pm   Dr Chitra Bharucha   DMedSc for services to medicine and for public service.  

Tuesday 1 July:

10.30am   Professor Laurie Taylor   DUniv for contributions to social sciences and for services to broadcasting.  
  James Ellis   DUniv for services to the performing arts.  
2.30pm   Professor Donald Akenson   DLit for distinction in history.  
  Anne Enright   DLit for distinction in literature.  

Wednesday 2 July:

10.30am   Professor Alison Richard   DSSc for distinction in social sciences and for services to higher education.  
2.30pm   Harvey McGrath   DSc(Econ) for services to business and commerce.
  Richard Lambert   DSc(Econ) for services to business and commerce.  

Thursday 3 July:

10.30am   Father Alec Reid  DUniv for services to the community.  
  Rev Harold Good  DUniv for service to the community.  
2.30pm   Ray O’Rourke  DSc(Eng) for services to engineering and business and commerce.  
  David Perry  DSc(Eng) for distinction in computer game development and design.  

Friday 4 July:

10.30am   Lady McLaughlin  LLD for services to the University and to the community.  
  Dr Chris Gibson  LLD for services to the University and to business and commerce.  
2.30pm  Joanna Lumley  DUniv for services to the performing arts. 

Media enquiries to Press and PR Unit. Tel: 028 9097 3091/3097, m07815 871 997 or email

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Former Pro-Chancellors honoured
Chris Gibson
Chris Gibson
Lady McLaughlin
Lady McLaughlin

This morning’s graduation ceremony saw the return to Queen’s graduation platform of two of Northern Ireland’s most distinguished public figures.

Lady Brenda McLaughlin and Dr Chris Gibson, both of whom served as Pro-Chancellors of Queen’s from 1999 to 2007, were awarded honorary Doctorates of Laws.  The doctorate was conferred on Lady McLaughlin for services to the University and to the community, while Dr Gibson was awarded his honorary degree for services to the University and to business and commerce.

Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, James O’Kane, who delivered both citations, said: “Our two honorary graduands have played significant roles in Northern Ireland’s public and business life. As Pro-Chancellors of the University, Lady McLaughlin’s experience and knowledge of the voluntary sector and the health service, and Dr Gibson’s of the world of business and finance, were invaluable. Both have made major contributions to Queen’s and to Northern Ireland. “

Brenda McLaughlin was formerly the Chairman of the South East Belfast Health and Social Services Trust and Vice Chairman of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board.  She served as Chair of the Opportunity Now campaign in NI and as a board member of Business in the Community (NI).  Her voluntary involvements include Action Cancer, the NI Chest, Heart and Stroke Association and Extern. 

As Pro-Chancellor of Queen’s, she chaired and served on a number of core committees. In 1999, she helped set up the University’s Women’s Forum which she chaired, and which led to the establishment of the award-winning Queen’s Gender Initiative in 2000. 

Brenda McLaughlin continues to be active in Northern Ireland’s public life, notably as Chairman of the Civil Service Commission. She is also a member of the Public Services Commission, a director of the Ulster Bank and was recently appointed to the Board of the Ulster Orchestra.

Before retiring in 1999, Dr Gibson was Managing Director UK of Golden Vale Plc, responsible for a staff of 750 and a turnover of £250m.  He has continued to be active in business activities having served as Chairman of the Foyle Meat Group Ltd and Wilson’s Country Ltd and as a Director of Independent News and Media (NI).  His community activities include serving on the Centre for Cross Border Studies, of which he is a former Chair, and as a Trustee of the Irish School of Ecumenics. He is also a Turstee of Mediation NI. He is a past Chairman of the NI region of the Confederation of British Industry and was the first Chairman of the Civic Forum. 

As Pro-Chancellor of Queen’s, he also served on key university committees and advised on investments within the University’s knowledge transfer company, QUBIS Ltd.  His service to Queen’s continues as Chairman of the University’s Centre of Excellence for Public Health, officially opened just last month.

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Star student overcomes disability
Charles Campalani with his mother Sally and sister Katy
Charles Campalani with his mother Sally and sister Katy

Queen’s student Charles Campalani (22) will graduate today, having proved that dyslexia and dyspraxia are no barriers to excellence.

From South Belfast, Charles has difficulties with speech and working out what people mean when talking to him. Sequencing the alphabet and months of the year are also a problem.

He has successfully battled both conditions and today the proud student will receive a 2:1 BEng in Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

Proving his complex condition is no match for him, Charles is also a member of Queen’s Volleyball team, speaks three languages and is a qualified dive master. He has just returned to Northern Ireland from a diving expedition in the Red Sea.

Charles said: “Queen’s has helped me in many ways. As well as assessing my needs every year, they helped me with computer programmes and a note taker for some classes which meant I could concentrate on understanding my lecturers. I got photocopies of lectures and much of the material I needed was available online.”

Charles has the following advice for fellow sufferers of dyslexia and dyspraxia who are planning on coming to Queen’s. He said: “Be open about your difficulties and if you talk comfortably about them, it means others are comfortable around you and not treading on eggshells all the time. It is also helpful to be clear not just about what your difficulties are but explain to others how they can best help you, and you will find they are very willing to do so.”

Media enquiries to the Press and PR Unit on 028 9097 3091 / 3087 or email

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