Royal Irish Academy

The Royal Irish Academy (RIA; Irish: Acadamh Ríoga na hÉireann), based in Dublin, is an all-Ireland, independent academic body that promotes study and excellence in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. It is one of Ireland's premier learned societies and cultural institutions. As of 2019 the RIA has around 600 members, regular members being Irish residents elected in recognition of their academic achievements, and Honorary Members similarly qualified but based abroad; a small number of members are elected in recognition of non-academic contributions to society. The Academy was established in 1785 and granted a royal charter in 1786.[1]

Royal Irish Academy
FounderJames Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont
Headquarters19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2,
Dublin, Ireland
Michael Peter Kennedy

Until the late 19th century the Royal Irish Academy was also the owner of the main national collection of Irish antiquities. It presented its collection of archaeological artefacts and similar items, which included such famous pieces as the Tara Brooch, the Cross of Cong and the Ardagh Chalice to what is now the National Museum of Ireland, but retains its very significant collection of manuscripts including the famous Cathach of Colmcille, the Lebor na hUidre (c. 1100), the later medieval Leabhar Breac, the Book of Ballymote, and the Annals of the Four Masters.

Mission statement

The Academy defines itself as Ireland's leading body of experts in the sciences and humanities, and its mission statement says "The Academy champions Irish academic research. One of it principal roles is to identify and recognise Ireland's world-class researchers. It supports excellent scholarship and promotes awareness of how science and the humanities enrich our lives and benefit society."


The Academy is an all-island independent forum of peer-elected experts, which draws on Members' expertise to contribute to public debate and policy formation on issues in science, technology and culture. In doing this it aims to bring together academia, government and industry to address issues of mutual interest, and it leads national research projects, particularly in areas relating to Ireland and its heritage. The RIA also represents Irish learning internationally, operates a major research library, and is an academic publisher.


Election to Membership of the Royal Irish Academy is a public recognition of academic excellence and is sometimes held to be the highest academic honour in Ireland. Those elected are entitled to use the designation "MRIA" after their name. The criterion for election to Membership is a significant contribution to scholarly research as shown in the candidate's published academic work. However some of those elected to membership are not academics at all but receive the accolade in recognition of other contributions to society: these include former public servants, philanthropists, leaders in political and business life, and others.

Regular membership

To be elected to regular membership, a candidate has to be proposed and recommended by five Members, and selection is made by a rotating committee of existing Members, their names not made known outside the Academy. Presently, up to 24 Members are elected each year, equally divided between the sciences and humanities. Membership is open only to those resident in Ireland.

Honorary membership

Honorary Membership can be awarded to persons who have made outstanding contribution to their academic discipline, but who are normally resident outside the island of Ireland. At least two existing Members must propose and recommend a candidate for Honorary Membership. Honorary members are entitled to use the designation "Hon. MRIA" after their name.


The Academy is one of the longest-established publishers in Ireland, having commenced in 1787. The Academy currently publishes six journals: Ériu, Irish Studies in International Affairs, Mathematical Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Section C, Irish Journal of Earth Sciences and Biology and Environment . The Academy's research projects also regularly publish the Irish Historic Towns Atlas series, the Documents on Irish Foreign Policy, Foclóir na nua-Ghaeilge, the Dictionary of Medieval Latin from Celtic Sources, and the New Survey of Clare Island. In 2014 the Academy published (in association with Yale University Press) the five-volume Art and Architecture of Ireland.

The Academy is committed to publishing work which not only influences scholarship, but also the wider community, for example Flashes of Brilliance by Dick Ahlstrom, and Judging Dev by Diarmaid Ferriter. Both of these publications have been accompanied by either a television or a radio series.

Academy committees

During the 1950s the Academy began forming national committees, each relating to a specific discipline. Today the main focus of the Academy committees is to serve as a strategic vehicle for the disciplines they represent, and to act as a national forum, providing input into policy, research priorities and issues of public concern, such as climate change. They also organise public outreach activities, such as lectures and public interviews, and award grants for research and travel. The Academy committees are made up of both Members and non-Members, including representatives from universities, research institutions, government agencies and, where appropriate, industry.

Science Committees: Climate Change and Environmental Sciences; Engineering and Computer Sciences; Geosciences and Geographical Sciences; Life and Medical Sciences; Physical, Chemical and Mathematical Sciences

Humanities and Social Sciences Committees: Ethical, Political, Legal and Philosophical Studies; Historical Studies; Social Sciences; Study of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication; Coiste Léann na Gaeilge, Litríocht na Gaeilge agus na gCultúr Ceilteach.

Standing Committees - Standing Committee for Archaeology; Standing Committee for International Affairs; North-South Standing Committee.

For more information on all of the Academy's committees and their work visit

Academy House

In 1852 the Royal Irish Academy moved from 114 Grafton Street to its current premises at 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2, known as "Academy House".[2] Built in c.1750, the building has some fine decorative plasterwork and a handsome meeting room designed in 1854 by Frederick Clarendon and now used for conferences, exhibitions and public talks. The Academy allows the use of these meeting rooms by external bodies when its own activities permit.

Academy House was home to many of Ireland's finest national treasures, including the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch, until 1890 when the Academy transferred its collections to the newly established National Museum of Ireland.[3]

The Academy Library holds the largest collection of Old Irish manuscripts in the world.[2] It is an important research centre for studies covering Irish history, language, archaeology and the history of Irish science. The Library is home to the sixth-century Latin psalter, the Cathach, reputedly copied by St Columcille.[4] The Library also holds the personal library and a harp belonging to Thomas Moore and the philological collection of Osborn J. Bergin.

See also Category:Royal Irish Academy Library

Research projects

The Academy manages a number of high-profile research projects in the sciences and humanities. Past projects have included The Digital Humanities Observatory (DHO), New Survey of Clare Island(NSCI) and The Origins of the Irish Constitution (OIC).

Current projects


The President and Council are responsible for the Academy's general government and regulation. They are elected annually at the Stated Meeting on 16 March. The President normally serves a three-year term of office. The membership of Council is drawn from the Sciences and Humanities sections. Council formulates policies, and recommends candidates for membership.

The Executive Committee supports the Council in supervising the day-to-day business of the Academy. The members of the Executive Committee are the President, Senior Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Secretaries of Science and PL&A (Polite Literature & Antiquities, i.e. Humanities), Executive Secretary, Secretary for International Relations, and a staff representative.

The Royal Irish Academy became a prescribed body under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and the Freedom of Information Act (Amendment) 2003, on 31 May 2006.[5]


Awards of the Royal Irish Academy

The premier award of the Royal Irish Academy is the Cunningham Medal, which it awards every three years in recognition of "outstanding contributions to scholarship and the objectives of the Academy." Other awards include the Gold Medals which are awarded to two people each year who "made a demonstrable and internationally recognised outstanding scholarly contribution in their fields,"[41] and US-Ireland Research Innovation Awards which are awarded annually in three categories HEIs, Multinationals and SMEs.

The Royal Irish Academy also operates a number of prizes including the annual Hamilton Prize for Mathematics which it awards to the best mathematic students as nominated by academic institutions, the Kathleen Lonsdale Prize for Chemistry which is awarded to the most outstanding Irish Ph.D. thesis in the general area of the chemical sciences, and the biennial RIA Michel Deon Prize for Non-Fiction which honours the life of Michel Déon (1919-2016) by continuing his work in supporting and championing writing talent and sustains his legacy in celebrating the richness and diversity of cultural experience in Europe.

Notable members

See also


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