Northern Ireland news

Journalists William Crawley and Olivia O'Leary among 27 new Royal Irish Academy members

The new members on the steps of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin

JOURNALISTS William Crawley and Olivia O'Leary were among those honoured yesterday for their exceptional contribution to the humanities, sciences and public service.

They are among 27 new members of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA).

Membership is the highest academic honour in Ireland.

The academy has been honouring leading contributors to the world of learning since its establishment in 1785.

Past members have included Maria Edgeworth, a pioneer of the modern novel, and Nobel laureates WB Yeats, Ernest Walton, Erwin Schrödinger and Seamus Heaney.

Of the 27 to be admitted this year, four are academics from Queen's University Belfast.

Former RTÉ and BBC presenter Olivia O'Leary is a journalist, broadcaster, public commentator and writer of international standing whose work, the RIA said, "makes an exceptional contribution to Irish society".

Mr Crawley is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster with the BBC, presenting television and radio programmes on current affairs, politics, arts, science, religion and ethics.

Other new members include Nobel Prize-winning cognitive neuroscientist John O'Keefe and Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, one of the world's leading human rights scholars.

Of those from Queen's, Moyra Haslett is professor of eighteenth century and romantic literature and principal investigator for the Irish Song database while law professor Kieran McEvoy is a long term human rights activist.

The others are modern history expert Fearghal McGarry and professor of Spanish golden age literature Isabel Torres, who is also a member of the Royal Spanish Academy.

RIA President Prof Michael P Kennedy said the new members had made "exceptional contributions in their fields of endeavour".

"We are delighted to recognise their achievements."

Meanwhile, the RIA has announced plans to establish an academy for Ireland's top young researchers in the sciences and humanities.

It will provide a forum for early to mid-career researchers and scholars "so that their voices are heard within the academy and by national and international policy makers".

It will join an international network of 45 National Young Academies that exist worldwide.

Members will be selected for their academic excellence and their commitment to public service.

Honorary RIA member Jocelyn Bell Burnell said the initiative would create a more diverse academy and new advocate for Irish research and scholarship.

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