The University of Ulster’s graduations continue at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast today when students from the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Life and Health Sciences and the Faculty of Computing and Engineering receive their awards.
The morning ceremony sees an honorary degree awarded to Sport NI chief executive Eamonn McCartan, who will receive the degree of Doctor of the University (DUniv), in recognition of his services to sport and community relations in Northern Ireland.
In the afternoon, leading businessman William Wright — chairman of the UK’s largest independent coachbuilder Wrightbus — will receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (DSc) in recognition of his services to manufacturing in Northern Ireland.
Also among today’s graduates is Dympna Walsh-Gallagher, who plans to use her PhD research to improve health care provision for pregnant women with disabilities.
The Donegal woman, whose sister Anne Marie was born with cerebral palsy, followed the progress of 17 mums-to-be in Northern Ireland and the Republic from pregnancy through to birth and beyond.
Their disabilities ranged from spina bifida, motor neurone disease, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, brain tumours, blindness to mild learning difficulties.
“I looked at the challenges they faced and obstacles they encountered, in some cases taking on the health and social care services in order to keep their babies,” Dympna said. “But none of them ever gave up on their babies even if their own health suffered. They always saw the treasure at the end of the rainbow — their baby — even if the health professionals or their partners couldn’t.
“These women all delivered healthy babies and they have all proved to be great mothers.
“I promised the women who participated in the research that I would try and do more for them to try and improve the health service for pregnant women with disabilities.”
The Donegal woman suffered a setback during her studies when she was eight months pregnant and involved in a car accident which left her with serious back injuries. Thankfully she gave birth to a healthy boy – the first of two sons, Peter and James, born while she was studying for her PhD.
Meanwhile, another student graduating today has warned that GAA clubs and counties need to work more effectively to stop player burnout before players are disillusioned by the sport.
Lynette Hughes, from Carrickmore in Co Tyrone, graduates from the University of Ulster today with a PhD, after a three-year study into player burnout in gaelic footballers.
Lynette identified three areas of difficulty associated with burnout — physical and emotional exhaustion, reduced performance and disillusionment and withdrawal from the sport.
“Young players are being exposed to too much activity in the sport at such a young age,” she said. “There are a significant number of footballers who are at times trying to cope with the demands of three or four coaches as some are playing minor and senior football for their club, as well as playing county and university football.
“It is the demands put on these players which are disillusioning young footballers, and this is as much a danger to the GAA’s future as the physical extremities they are put under.”
The study was the most extensive of its kind ever undertaken, focusing on a survey of more than 600 of the country’s leading young Gaelic footballers.