Cabinet to give its approval to damehoods for Irish citizens

Female equivalent of knighthood awarded by British queen
Cabinet to give its approval to damehoods for Irish citizens

Waterford-born Oxford academic Louise Richardson has been awarded a damehood.

The Cabinet is to give its approval to the awarding by Britain's Queen Elizabeth of damehoods to Waterford-born Oxford academic Louise Richardson and Limerick-born NHS boss Marianne Griffiths.

The Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) is the second-highest honour bestowed by the Queen and is the female equivalent to a knighthood.

Under Irish law, however, such a title has no significance in terms of conferring rights, entitlements, or dignities.

The Cabinet here must sign off on the award to people who hold Irish citizenship and has been asked by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney to do so at its meeting on Tuesday, the Irish Examiner  can reveal.

Prof Richardson, the Irish vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, is to become president of philanthropic fund the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

She will take up her post on January 1, 2023, at the end of her seven-year term in Oxford.

Originally from Waterford, Prof Richardson went to Trinity College Dublin, was previously principal and vice-chancellor of the University of St Andrews, in Scotland, and executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, in the United States.

She is an expert in terrorism and counterterrorism, and was the first woman vice-chancellor of Oxford and St Andrews, and will also be the first woman to head the Carnegie Corporation, taking over from Vartan Gregorian. She is already a trustee.

Limerick native Marianne Griffiths was named as a dame for services to the health service in the New Year Honours List back in late 2019.

Limerick native Marianne Griffiths was named as a dame for services to Britain's National Health Service.
Limerick native Marianne Griffiths was named as a dame for services to Britain's National Health Service.

Speaking of her honour at the time, she said: “I have the privilege to work with so many extraordinary and caring colleagues in the NHS and I am delighted to accept this honour in recognition of everything we achieve together for the people we serve.

“It is truly humbling to share a common purpose with more than 15,000 compassionate, dedicated, and talented healthcare professionals at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and Western Sussex Hospitals."

A previous Cabinet signed off on the damehood for legendary Hollywood actress Angela Lansbury, who is an Irish citizen.

Born in London in 1925 to an Irish mother, Angela Brigid Lansbury Shaw, then aged 88, is an Irish citizen and was named a dame by Queen Elizabeth for her services to drama and to charitable work.

As a result, in accordance with the Constitution, the Cabinet had to formally grant its approval to allow her obtain the title, the female equivalent of the honour of knighthood in the British honours system.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the Constitution says that "titles of nobility shall not be conferred by the State and no title of nobility or of honour may be accepted by any citizen except with the prior approval of the Government".

In a reply to a parliamentary question, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the reference in Article 40.2.2 of the Constitution to "title of nobility or of honour" has been interpreted, in accordance with advice from the Attorney General, as referring to honours conferred by or on behalf of a sovereign authority, the recipients of which become entitled, by the law or custom of the foreign State in question, to use prefixes to their names such as “Sir”, “Dame”, “Lord” or "Marquis”.

In addition to the two new awards, the Cabinet has been informed of nine such honours since 2013. It is these types of award which are brought to the attention of Government. The recipients of the awards in each instance are dual Irish-British citizens.

Marks of distinction

On the other hand, awards which provide for the use of letters or marks of distinction after one's name; medals; ribbons; or academic honours are not regarded as conferring a title of nobility or of honour in this context.

Where a damehood or a knighthood has been awarded, Mr Coveney said the prior approval of the Government was sought and secured before acceptance of the title of nobility or honour by the Irish citizen concerned.

In other cases, the honours in question were extended to the Irish citizens concerned in 2014 before the conferral was brought to the attention of the Government in 2015.

As no facility exists for retrospective approval, the Government took note of the granting of the awards and their acceptance by the Irish citizens concerned, he said. Mr Coveney said:

My department regularly informs the authorities of countries concerned that the prior approval of the Government should be sought in instances where substantive awards are to be conferred on an Irish citizen.

"It is noted that rights, privileges, or dignities deriving from the award of a title of nobility or honour subsist solely within the jurisdiction conferring it and any other jurisdiction that may recognise rights, privileges or dignities as flowing from it."

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