UCC celebrates the achievements of five pioneering alumni achievers

UCC celebrates the achievements of five pioneering alumni achievers

The UCC Alumni Achievement Awards took place last Friday evening. The 2019 recipients are Professor Martin Tangney OBE (Biofuel Pioneer), Her Honour Judge Helen Boyle (Cork Circuit Court Judge)Sean Minihane (Founder of the Irish Immigration Reform Movement), Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Award-winning Poet and Author) and Professor Des Crowley (Doctor and Inclusion Health Leader). Pic: Gerard McCarthy.

FIVE trailblazing alumni were honoured with an Alumni Achievement Award from their alma mater University College Cork last Friday evening.

The awards are one of the highest accolades given by the university and the award winners included: her Honour Judge Helen Boyle, Cork Circuit Court judge; Professor Des Crowley, Doctor and inclusion health leader; Sean Minihane, founder of the Irish Immigration Reform Movement; Doireann Ní Ghríofa, award-winning poet and author, and Professor Martin Tangney OBE, biofuel pioneer.

President of UCC, Professor John O’Halloran paid tribute to the award winners: 

“We are very proud that our alumni have been generous and impactful in securing a better life for our citizens and our planet,” he said.

Cormac Gilroy and Kieran O’Sullivan from sponsors Matheson pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen
Cormac Gilroy and Kieran O’Sullivan from sponsors Matheson pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen

Sean Minihane, a UCC engineering graduate, co-founded the Irish Immigration Reform Movement (IIRM) in 1987 and led the grassroots organisation whose primary purpose was to legalise the status of undocumented immigrants from Ireland and 34 other countries adversely affected by America’s 1965 Immigration Act.

“On behalf of all of my wonderful colleagues in the Irish Immigration Reform Movement (IIRM) and as an alumnus of UCC, I am very proud to be able to accept this award,” said Sean Minihane.

UCC Alumni award winner Judge Helen Boyle and husband Brian Murphy with children Elizabeth, Katherine, and Grace pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen
UCC Alumni award winner Judge Helen Boyle and husband Brian Murphy with children Elizabeth, Katherine, and Grace pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen

An accomplished lawyer and Circuit Court judge, Judge Helen Boyle graduated with a BCL and LLB from UCC’s School of Law in 1992 and 1993 respectively. 

Judge Boyle practised as a barrister at the Cork Bar prior to her appointment as a judge. Since her appointment to the Circuit Court in 2020, she has made significant impacts in her field.

“I loved my time at UCC and appreciate the opportunities I was given there."

"I made lifelong friends there. I realise that it was a privilege to study in UCC and I brought what I had learned with me as I progressed through life and work,” stated her Honour Judge Boyle.

UCC Alumni Award Winner Sean Minihane with family Susan Minihane, Brian, and Kevin Minihane pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen
UCC Alumni Award Winner Sean Minihane with family Susan Minihane, Brian, and Kevin Minihane pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen

UCC Medicine graduate Professor Des Crowley is clinical lead for the HSE Addiction Services, Dublin North, North Central and Northwest, a role of regional and national importance.

In 1995 he established the opioid substitution treatment (OST) service at Mountjoy Prison, which he still oversees to this day. His work has been featured in the RTÉ documentaries “The Joy” and “Back to the Joy”.

"I am honoured to receive this Alumni award. I hope that this award will highlight the ongoing need to reduce the known and existing barriers that marginalised and vulnerable populations experience in accessing equitable healthcare," said Professor Des Crowley.

UCC Alumni Award Winner Doireann Ni Ghriofa and Tim Keane pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen
UCC Alumni Award Winner Doireann Ni Ghriofa and Tim Keane pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen

Award-winning poet and author Doireann Ní Ghríofa's critically acclaimed book A Ghost in the Throat has been described by The New York Times as 'ardent', 'shape-shifting' and 'exuberant'. 

The bestselling book won the An Post Irish Book of the Year in 2020 and the James Tait Black Prize. It is soon to be translated into eleven languages.

“To receive this award from UCC is a joy."

"Some of the most formative experiences of my life occurred here, and I'm deeply honoured to see my writing recognised in this way,” stated Doireann Ní Ghríofa.

UCC Alumni Award winner Prof Martin Tangney and Anna Hyde pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen
UCC Alumni Award winner Prof Martin Tangney and Anna Hyde pictured at the UCC Alumni Achievement Awards. Pic: John Allen

An award-winning inventor, Professor Martin Tangney OBE is a key international figure in the low carbon sector, informing policy debate around the world. 

In 2007, he established the UK’s first research centre dedicated to the development of sustainable biofuel and has since made history by powering the world´s first-ever car fuelled with biobutanol, a sustainable biofuel derived from the by-products of whiskey. Professor Tangney graduated from UCC with a BSc Microbiology in 1986.

“My degree course opened my eyes to the wonders of bacteria and how we can utilise them commercially."

"As the world strives to tackle climate change, biotechnology has a pivotal role to play as companies like Celtic Renewables seek to replace fossil fuel-derived chemicals with sustainable low carbon biological alternatives. 

"The seeds for Celtic Renewables were planted in my mind at UCC,” said Professor Martin Tangney OBE.

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