Tuesday 17 October 2017

White smoke as Trinity elects its youngest provost in 250 years

Prof Patrick Prendergast with his son Pierce and daughter Eimear at Trinity College after his election
Prof Patrick Prendergast with his son Pierce and daughter Eimear at Trinity College after his election
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

Trinity academics had to hand up their mobile phones before going in to elect the university's new provost, Professor Patrick Prendergast.

Prof Prendergast (44), the youngest provost at Trinity since 1758, will take over from Dr John Hegarty in the summer for a 10-year period.

Strict secrecy surrounds the voting process, which is similar in style to the closed room meeting known as the conclave, which elects the Pope.

It is unique in Britain and Ireland for selecting a university head.

Trinity's 700 academic staff were entitled to vote, and about 80pc of them turned up for Saturday's conclave in the college's Dining Hall. The event lasted almost four hours.

Four other candidates were eliminated in successive rounds of voting and the final contest was between Prof Prendergast -- the long-time favourite for the post and Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, who put in a strong bid to become the first woman in the role.

Prof Prendergast, a native of Oulart, Co Wexford, is Professor of Bio-Engineering and Vice-Provost Chief Academic Officer at Trinity.

He said afterwards that he was "deeply honoured and determined to use my experience and proven ability to stand up for Trinity's interests and to protect our core mission of education and research".

Education Minister Ruairi Quinn welcomed his election and said Prof Prendergast was taking on the role of provost at a time of significant challenge for the university and for the wider higher education system.

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