President Michael D Higgins has apologised for a remark he made about an Irish woman’s damehood.
Professor Louise Richardson is a Waterford native and is the first woman to serve as Vice Chancellor of Oxford University.
Last year, she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire for her role in attracting more students from deprived backgrounds to the university and in the production of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
She is also an expert in terrorism and has been selected by the Irish Government to chair its controversial forum on defence and security policy.
In an interview with the Business Post last week, President Higgins described the Government’s defence policy as “drifting” and said the country was “playing with fire” in its relationship with NATO.
While looking at a copy of the forum’s programme, he also noted Professor Richardson had been awarded a damehood - something Áras an Uachtaráin has since clarified was not meant in a negative way.
“[President Higgins] was referring casually to the fact that almost every reference to Professor Richardson in the programme was in a bold typeface, with, however, DBE in capital letters after her name,” a spokesperson said.
“Indeed, the President’s exact words were 'a very large letter DBE'.
“The President intended no offence by such a casual remark. He apologises for any offence which he may have inadvertently caused to Professor Richardson by what was a throwaway remark.
“As a political scientist and sociologist the President is familiar with Professor Richardson’s work.
“He has too, with others, an appreciation for the initiatives for which Professor Richardson was awarded her DBE, in attracting more undergraduates from non-traditional or deprived backgrounds to Oxford University.”
Article 40.2. 2° of the Constitution states that, “No title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government.”
Approval for Professor Richardson’s damehood was given by the Cabinet in May 2022.
Main image: Split of President Higgins and Professor Richardson getting her damehood.