History-making Oscar winner James Martin ‘delighted’ to receive honorary doctorate

History-making Oscar winner James Martin ‘delighted’ to receive honorary doctorate

OSCAR winner James Martin has spoken of his “delight” at being selected to receive an honorary doctorate from an Irish university.

Martin, who made history in March by becoming the first person with Down’s Syndrome to win an Oscar, will be honoured by Ulster University for his “outstanding contribution to the arts”.

Based in Belfast, Martin played the lead role of Lorcan in the short film An Irish Goodbye.

Set on a rural farm in Northern Ireland, the black comedy, directed and written by Ross White and Tom Berkeley, tells the story of two estranged brothers who come together after their mother's death.

Seamus O'Hara plays Martin’s older brother Turlough.

The film won the Best Short Film (Live Action) Oscar, before going on to scoop a BAFTA and an IFTA.

This week Ulster University confirmed their intention to honour Martin’s achievements among their 11-strong list of honorary graduates for 2023.

“Ulster University is recognising 11 key figures from across the arts, sport, broadcasting, peacebuilding and community work, business, health and social work,” they stated.

“This year’s honourees include an Oscar winner, a World Champion gymnast, a prize-winning poet, Ford’s UK Managing Director, a BBC Radio 3 broadcaster, a leader in women’s football and experts in peacebuilding and health and social care.”

They added: “Filmed in rural Northern Ireland, the short film An Irish Goodbye has made history winning an Academy Award, a BAFTA and the Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) award for live action short.

“The University is recognising the outstanding contribution to the arts of one of its lead actors, James Martin.

“James is the first person with Down’s Syndrome to win an Oscar and the University was delighted to host him recently on our Belfast campus during President Biden’s visit, during which he received a special mention from the President who said he was going to “brag to his daughter about meeting James”,” they explained.

President Joe Biden hugs actor James Martin during a visit to Ulster University while on his recent Irish trip

Regarding the news, Martin said:  “I will be delighted to receive this honorary doctorate from Ulster University in recognition of my contribution to An Irish Goodbye.

“We had a great team working on the movie which told a universal story that people really connected with and enjoyed watching.

“The impact it has had on people with learning difficulties has been very positive.”

The University will also recognise poet Michael Longley among its honorary doctorates this summer, for his "outstanding achievement in the field of creative writing, as well as a public figure and champion for the arts".

BBC Radio 3 broadcaster Sean Rafferty will be honoured "for services to the arts, music and broadcasting".

Two leading sports stars are also among the honourees, with champion Northern Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan and Sara Booth, head of competitions within the FIFA Women’s Football Division, both receiving doctorates.

Ulster University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Bartholomew said of their plans: “Graduation is a time for celebration within the University community and we are excited for our graduates to move into the world of employment and put their new qualifications to use.

“At Ulster University, we work to develop well-rounded, skilled and experienced graduates, and as part of this, we also identify and celebrate positive role models for our graduates to aspire to.

“These honourees are individuals making a genuine difference in their local or global community in various fields such as arts, sport, peacebuilding and community work, business, health, and social work.”

The honorary doctorates will be conferred during the university's summer graduation ceremonies, which take place from June 29 until July 7.