Nottingham professor honoured with Royal Irish Academy membership

Friday, 22 May 2020

Professor Thomas O’Loughlin has today been made an honorary member of the Royal Irish Academy, considered the highest academic distinction in Ireland.

For 235 years, new members of the Royal Irish Academy have been admitted with a handshake, but this year’s ceremony was very different. Thomas O’Loughlin, a Professor of Historical Theology at the University of Nottingham, was among 29 internationally renowned Irish academics who were welcomed into the Academy by its president, Dr Mary Canning, via video call.

Welcoming the newly admitted members, Dr Canning said:

Ireland should be immensely proud of these women and men who have brought international acclaim to our country. As members of the Royal Irish Academy they will strengthen our capacity to provide the expert advice Ireland needs at this time.
Dr Mary Canning, President, Royal Irish Academy

Dr Canning added that she looked forward to the day when she can physically welcome the new members to Academy House.

She thanked the many Academy members who had put their expertise at the service of the people of Ireland during the current COVID-19 crisis and announced that “an Academy steering group has been established to develop and coordinate the activities of the various Academy committees and members and to maximise the Academy’s convening power across all humanities, social sciences and science disciplines throughout the island of Ireland.”

Professor O’Loughlin is one of six academics who have been named as honorary members, after being elected in 2017. The Academy cites the Professor as an authority on the origins and evolution of the liturgy and theology of the early Christian Church, as well as being a leading scholar in the field of Early Insular Christian history. He has produced exemplary work on St Patrick, and has published landmark books on Gildas, the Welsh Christian writer and on Adomnán, the most important Irish Church figure of the seventh century.

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I grew up in Dublin and one just knew that the Royal Irish academy was the pinnacle of learning! Then in university, one saw the letters the 'MRIA' (Member of the Royal Irish Academy) on the names of only the most eminent of the professors! So today, it is joy mixed with almost unbelief that I am being made a member!
Professor Thomas O’Loughlin, from the University of Nottingham’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies

He added: "Even in lockdown when the ceremony takes place on Zoom, it gives one a sense of great satisfaction that one's research has been recognised - and it is a good excuse to open a bottle of claret this evening!"

There are currently 618 members of the Academy, 88 of whom are Honorary members, including Nobel laureate William C. Campbell, and Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford. Other members include Mary E. Daly, historian and commissioner with the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation; Brian MacCraith, physicist and president of Dublin City University; and Frances Ruane, economist and chair of the Abbey Theatre.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Thomas O’Loughlin in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nottingham at or Katie Andrews in the Press Office at the University of Nottingham at

Katie Andrews - Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Social Sciences
Phone: 0115 951 5751

Notes to editors:

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