Benefit concert announced! Tiernan to host; The Stunning, My Fellow Sponges featured


Comedian Tommy Tiernan will emcee a benefit concert for the five women lecturers who have been forced to take court cases against NUI Galway to fight for their rights.

Save the date: Wednesday, March 29th!

Three local acts — The Stunning, Tommy Tiernan and My Fellow Sponges — will play a benefit concert supported by the NUI Galway Students’ Union with all proceeds going towards the legal costs of the five women taking court cases against NUI Galway. The concert will be held at The Black Box on Wednesday 29th March.

And we can use your help!

We need as many people as possible at the concert. If you can come, please do. Tickets are available at the Town Hall Theatre box office or online at


If you want to do this, just write to with your contact details and we’ll get back to you. And thank you in advance.

Update: We are also looking for sponsors for the concert as well as prizes for a raffle. Sponsors can be large businesses, small shops or individuals. If anyone can help with sponsorship, please write to

The Stunning have not returned to play in Galway since their amazing outdoor concert in the harbour for the Volvo Ocean race in 2012. Tommy has a TV show and is filling venues around the country. My Fellow Sponges are a favourite band of NUI Galway students. What they all have in common is they want to put right the injustice being suffered by the five female lecturers because of NUI Galway’s intransigence.

Four of the five women lecturers are taking NUI Galway to the High Court. The first hearing is on Thursday, May 4th, when NUI Galway’s lawyers will attempt to have the cases thrown out on legal arguments alone. The fifth woman has been fighting NUI Galway in the Labour Court.

Tommy, the emcee for the benefit concert, will galvanise NUI Galway students to join the demonstration outside the High Court in Dublin against the university on May 4th. NUI Galway Students’ Union are providing free coaches.

“What NUI Galway is doing is deeply hypocritical,” said Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington. “First, they told the women they needed to prove their cases in court and now they are attempting to have those cases thrown out without them being heard. They claim this is because it will save money, but really it’s because of the scandal which will come out in open court if the women are allowed to present the details.”

These were the five women shortlisted and not promoted along with Micheline, who won an Equality Tribunal case in 2014 against NUI Galway for gender discrimination. Micheline says the case allowed her to see the application forms of all the shortlisted candidates; consequently, she knows these five women deserve to be promoted as much as she did. In that round, 16 men were promoted and only 1 woman, even though 52% of the Junior Lecturers eligible to apply were female.

Please help us make this benefit concert a success. Your support is greatly appreciated.



The Catholic Church and Opus Dei – the reason why NUI Galway came to have so few women in senior posts?


Since we started this campaign we’ve often pondered how NUI Galway became so exceptionally bad for the representation of women in higher posts. They are so bad it was possible to show, using the previous SHE figures, that only the University of Malta could have a worse Glass Ceiling Index in all of Europe! In the last set of data issued by the Higher Education Authority all Irish universities had poor levels of female representation in higher posts, but there was, once again, clear blue water between NUI Galway at the bottom and the rest:

Gender Equality Rankings for Irish Universities 2016 (derived from HEA data published in 2016 for 2015).


This can’t just be the fault of the present Management Team led by University President Jim Browne as NUI Galway were already the worst when Jim came to power nine years ago. They certainly didn’t do anything to improve it, until forced to by all the recent fuss, but the present management team were not the original cause. So what could be that cause?

We’ve asked several retired members of staff and some of the answers we received have been very interesting. Several said it was down in some way to the exceptional influence the Roman Catholic Church had on NUI Galway. Faith in the Church was particular strong in the mostly rural west of Ireland so that the Roman Catholic Church had more influence with appointments, and the Church favoured men. One of the retired academics recommended we take a look at the university boardroom. It’s at the back of the university quad, and is where the Academic Council and other important university bodies meet. The walls are lined with portraits of eminent past academics, all of them men. At least two of them are prelates, including the large central portrait which dominates them all.



But surely if NUI Galway’s poor representation of women is simply because it was away from more cosmopolitan Dublin, what about Cork, also an old university institution with a mostly rural catchment. Surely Cork too would have had the same effect? But although Cork is next to bottom it is little worse than the rest and nothing like as bad as Galway. Look at the table.

Now, here we enter the realms of the difficult to believe: we’ve also been told that the real cause for the exceptional misogyny is the hold Opus Dei once had on NUI Galway. Opus Dei is the mysterious Catholic order which features in the novel and film The Da Vinci Code. When the first retired member told us this we didn’t believe him, but then another did. The first told us that a previous University President and the Academic Secretary then were both order members, while the other said that in the past many of the senior posts in the old University College Galway were held either by order members or supporters who attended Opus Dei meetings. It was the secret Opus Dei influence that resulted in Galway being so anti women.

We tried to check this out on the internet. Firstly, Opus Dei really does exist and it really is a secret Roman Catholic organisation, the members and supporters of which do not admit their involvement. But being secretive it is difficult to find out if there’s any truth in the accusations about NUI Galway. However, there is one very interesting piece of journalism that corroborates the two retired staff members. This is a long and well-researched article written by Maurice Roche in 1983 for the Magill Magazine. He died soon afterwards in a car accident (presumably just a coincidence!) so he never published anything further on Opus Dei. But that original article is now available on the Politico web site and gives a fascinating insight into what might have been happening at NUI Galway in the 1980’s.

Roche refers to published material, both Opus Dei documents and articles about them, and he also names the directors of Irish companies set up by Opus Dei, reckoning these people were likely to be members or supporters of the secret organisation. He found that Opus Dei had two foci in Ireland: University College Dublin and NUI Galway, or as it was then, University College Galway. He shows how Opus Dei always tries to work through universities as a way of recruiting members. When it came to Ireland from Spain in the 1950’s it established initially in Dublin at the Catholic UCD and was then invited to Galway by Bishop Micheal Browne, who built Galway Cathedral. Significantly the Bishop of Cork in the 1950’s actively excluded Opus Dei from his diocese. Thus, nearly all the company directors and others Roche identified as associated with the organisation were either Dublin or Galway based. For some reason most of them were either engineers or working in law.

Most of the hostels owned by Opus Die were also either in Dublin or Galway. These provided cheap or free accommodation for university students and were recruiting grounds for the order. Roche gives several examples of young people, some of them from Galway, being separated from contact with their families as they were drawn into the organisation, to eventually become order members. Opus Dei was effectively a cult within the Roman Catholic Church, with the kind of brainwashing and culture of ‘them and us’ that all cults have. It was also extremely right wing and saw women’s role as purely servile. Young men were trained for positions of power and the women for domestic service. That this recruiting happened in Galway has been confirmed by a staff member who told us how, when he was a young in the early 1980’s, the order tried to recruit him. He was a committed Catholic and conscientious student who must have been identified as likely material as he was made a fuss of and wined and dined until he realised what was happening.

There is far more to Roche’s long article. We recommend reading it in full to see how the organisation works and the total obedience expected of order members, who lead strict religious lives. The full members (numeraries) also take vows of chastity and poverty, and follow a prescribed programme of self-mortification. This involves self-flagellation on the buttocks with a whip once a week. Also, a spiked chain is worn on the upper thigh for two hours each day – except Sundays and Holy days. He also tells how the organisation was favoured by Pope John Paul in the 1980’s, who had been associated with it previously in Poland.

In Galway Opus Dei runs two student hostels to this day plus other houses rented to students. Amazingly, one of the hostels, Ros Geal, is on University Road immediately opposite the University President’s office! There is also Ballyglunin Park Conference Centre and associated Ballabert training college, near Tuam, whose director is, or at least was, a NUI Galway lecturer. The order is now slightly less secretive, having a web page and naming several of its members, mainly some of the few who are priests.  But it still seems to be very conservative: everyone who is named is male and the role outlined for women is unpaid domestic service.

From all we have read it seems Opus Dei may have been a major factor in how NUI Galway became so much worse at promoting women than other Irish universities. It could well be the reason why NUI Galway developed an ethos that did not notice, or care: that so few women became professors; and that the Academic Council, which sits in that boardroom with walls lined with portraits of men, is more than 80% male, while the junior lecturers and contract staff are predominantly female. We can’t know if Opus Die still has influence today because it is so secretive, but we do know that that ethos continues despite management’s claims of having addressed gender inequality. That is why all of their much trumpeted actions have turned out to be about optics rather than real change, and why NUI Galway’s management continue to refuse to do anything about the injustice of the five female lecturers who should have been promoted in 2009.

If anyone can give us more information they can send it to  Our sources will never be revealed.

The Secret Cartoonist exhibition is back!



The Secret Cartoonist exhibition will be on display at the Secret Garden Cafe in Galway through Feb. 5th. Drawings and T-shirts as well as badges, mugs and post cards will be available for sale to support the Gender Equality Campaign.

The exhibition of cartoons that caused so much upset to NUI Galway management last April is back on view at the Secret Garden Café, 4 William St West, Galway.

“I’m delighted it’s back,” said Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who launched the exhibition in front of a blank wall in NUI Galway’s Arts Millennium building last April. “It’s about raising awareness amongst students, especially about the four women’s High Court cases.”

Micheline said the next few months are critical for the Gender Equality campaign because the pre-trial hearing will be held Thursday, May 4th.

“If the University succeeds in having the women’s cases thrown out on a legal technicality, it will be an enormous injustice,” she said. “So the campaign is doing all it can to raise awareness so that lots of students and supporters come on the buses the Students Union are providing to demonstrate outside the High Court.”

The exhibition, which runs until February 5th, comprises a selection of framed and signed copies of the ‘University President –a fictional character’ cartoons as seen on Facebook. The original drawings for the ‘Mr Browne’s Boys’ T-shirts, which poke fun at University management, are also on view, some still for sale.

Last April, the exhibition was taken down in the middle of the night by University security even though the NUI Galway Students’ Union had properly booked the space. The clandestine removal brought more attention to the exhibition, which was subsequently allowed to go back up.

“But it’s had repercussions this year,” Micheline said. “University management have changed the rules about exhibitions so we won’t be able to hang it again there. In fact, the student societies who’re running a table in the University concourse every Tuesday and taking bookings for the High Court buses were told they couldn’t display the T-shirts that lampoon President Jim Browne and other senior management!”

The Secret Garden Café is frequented by many NUI Galway students as well as staff and will take orders for sales at the counter. Mugs, badges and post cards are also for sale at the café. To see the exhibition’s Facebook page, click on the following link:

Micheline in Village magazine: ‘NUI Galway is actually worse, much worse, than others’

SUMMARY: In case you missed it, Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington has written an excellent article in the January 10th, 2017, edition of the Village magazine about the lack of progress regarding gender equality at NUI Galway since winning her gender equality case at the Equality Tribunal in November 2014. The article, titled “Gender-isory: Not much has changed in NUIG on gender equality, two years after successful EAT case”, details the ongoing problems at the university. 

Quoted below is an excerpt of the article:


Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington


My case was a landmark case partly because, despite being in the public service, universities have a lot of autonomy, as they should. However, this has led to a lack of transparency in processes such as the promotion and appointment of academics. This has in turn led to an abuse, or perceived abuse, of power. The universities have been getting away with this for a long time now. 





The article is reprinted here in full on this page or you can read it and view accompanying photos and a graph by clicking on the following link:


Not much has changed in NUIG on gender equality, two years after successful EAT case

This November marks the second anniversary of my successful gender equality case at the Equality Tribunal against NUI Galway for its failure to appoint me to the post of Senior Lecturer. It was hailed as a landmark case and should have been a call to arms, not just for NUI Galway, but for all third-level institutions. However, the awakening is slow and I doubt that much has changed on the ground – or in attitudes amongst university management.

Currently, many staff in NUI Galway are disillusioned and afraid. Few staff feel able to challenge the authorities. Many are in precarious posts or worried they won’t be promoted. Some staff, I gather, have been reprimanded for speaking out. Fear has filtered through to the students. Recently a society was told it could not display images of Jim Browne, the NUI Galway President in its ‘Mr Browne’s Boys’ cartoon T-shirts at a table supporting five women lecturers pursuing similar litigation. Last April a cartoon exhibition to raise funds and awareness about the five women was booked on campus by the Students Union, but was taken down by Security in the middle of the night.

My case was a landmark case partly because, despite being in the public service, universities have a lot of autonomy, as they should. However, this has led to a lack of transparency in processes such as the promotion and appointment of academics. This has in turn led to an abuse, or perceived abuse, of power. The universities have been getting away with this for a long time now.

However, change comes slowly because university management is not answerable to any board of trustees or shareholders. The governing bodies seem powerless or unwilling to effect change. Ireland has an appalling international record for gender equality in academia. It has been ranked second worst in Europe after Malta for its Glass Ceiling Index in academia. Irish third-level institutions have a lot of catching up to do.

I donated my €70,000 award to five other women who, despite being fully deserving of promotion, had been unsuccessful. Their course of action is far more difficult, with only the High Court as an option because the Equality Tribunal deadline was long past. What I find extraordinary is that the university, instead of conceding errors were made, has chosen to spend large sums of taxpayers’ money fighting these women in the courts through an on-going, protracted and emotionally draining, to say nothing of financially stressful, legal wrangle.The facts were stark in NUI Galway when I took my case in 2009. The proportion of successful applicants was stunningly different for men and women. 50% of male candidates were successful compared to the 6.7% of female candidates who were successful (see Table 1). Summing up twelve points in my favour, the Equality Tribunal ruling highlighted that “perhaps the most significant frailty in the respondent’s [NUI Galway’s] rebuttal” was that in all four recent rounds of promotion to Senior Lecturer combined, men had a one in two and women less than a one in three chance of being promoted. One successful man had not even been eligible to apply.

The Equality Tribunal ruling specified that NUI Galway should send a report to what is now the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission within 12 months of the ruling. I recently got hold of this and am stunned at what took them 13 months to deliver. It comprises two parts, the larger part being an appendix. The first part, three pages long, sets the tone in stating that “a review had already been underway” but fails to specify that this ‘review’ was actually completed in 2011, three years before the Equality Tribunal ruling and is in fact referred to in the ruling.

The first part goes on to repeat the recommendations from that report and devotes one page to the recommendations for the 2013/14 round of promotions, initiated a year before the ruling. No reference is made to the fact that 20 of the candidates deemed suitable but not promoted in that round appealed and that only 18% of female candidates were promoted compared to 35% of male candidates. The consultant’s report commissioned on the back of these appeals is not available even under Freedom of Information (FOI).

There was a burst of outrage in the university on foot of my successful case and the action taken by the five other women. The injustice to the five women was immediately raised at the NUI Galway Údarás (Governing Body). I understand the discussion was heated. However, the minutes of that elevated body are only available under FOI where, as part of the process, any useful information has been redacted. Several heated meetings of the NUI Galway Academic Council, that comprises professors, deans and heads of school, and so is overwhelmingly male, resulted in nothing. It was told it was powerless to change matters.

Large numbers of students joined the campaign to support the five women, horrified to learn that they had not been promoted. “I am joining the campaign because [name of one of the five women] is the best lecturer I’ve ever had” was a common refrain. The Students Union and both staff unions gave their full support and 26 student societies signed up in solidarity to the campaign. This support continues.

What has happened since? A task force was established with much public fanfare and it delivered its final report in May 2016. This was hard-hitting, if limited, since it did not address the position of the five women or focus on non-academic staff, where matters are even worse.

The recommendations of the task force are not faring particularly well. It recommended that 50% of the “major influential” committees should be chaired by women by 2018. However, College Deans (all men) chair such committees and three of them were recently replaced by three more men. The task force suggested a cascade system of promotion. This is being watered down. Although 52% of lecturers are women, only 40% and not 52% of those promoted are required to be women, according to Equality Manager Aoife Cooke.

A new Vice President for Equality and Diversity has been appointed with a starting salary of €106,000 per annum. She may bring about some change, but I have always queried the necessity for this new post that costs more than it would to promote the five women. Sadly, the new Vice President appears to be focusing not on results but on the message that “NUI Galway is no worse than any other university”. This sums up the university’s concern. Image supersedes staff welfare. They are even planning to apply for an Athena Swan award, that recognises advancement of gender equality in universities, while continuing to fight the five women in the Courts. NUI Galway is actually worse, much worse, than others, as HEA figures show.

The Higher Education Authority set up an expert group on gender issues and its report, published last June, includes gendered statistics for Higher Education Institutions. This year’s rankings show NUI Galway, with 21% female senior staff (Professors and Senior Lecturers) to be a clear 6% lower than the next in line, UCC with 27%. These rankings, however, are never referred to and other rankings don’t include gender balance in their metrics. One can only hope there will be competition to avoid being bottom of the list in the rankings, thus bringing about at least some real improvements for female academics.


NUI Galway fails President’s promise to be leader in tackling gender equality

With the adoption of his Task Force report last May, President Jim Browne claimed NUI Galway would become a ‘leader in this space’ when it came to tackling gender inequality. At the time, this campaign celebrated achieving the first of Micheline’s three conditions, as the Task Force had recommended promotion quotas for women using a cascade system. But Micheline herself didn’t celebrate. She said she’d only believe it when she saw what management actually did. Well, it turns out Micheline was right to be sceptical as we’ve now found out how pathetic NUI Galway’s ‘serious’ attitude actually is!

Under the cascade system, the proportion of women promoted in each round is meant to match the proportion of women at the level from which they are being promoted. According to the HEA figures published last June, 52% of NUI Galway’s Lecturers are currently female so 52% of those promoted should be female. Even at this rate, it will be a long, long, time before the percentage of Senior Lecturers who are women rises from its present paltry 31% to 50%, and even longer before that feeds through in turn to an equal proportion of Professors who are women. It will, in fact, be decades. The justification for using a cascade system is that otherwise it would be unfair on the men. So you’d think a university seeking to be a ‘leader in this space’ and treat gender inequality with the ‘highest priority’ would at least be keen to get on with it. But no, it seems they are not.

If you take a look in the recent edition of the student’s Sin newspaper, the Head of Equal Opportunities, Aoife Cooke, is quoted in an article about what has happened two years on from Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win, and she gives away how many women the University is intending to promote in the next promotion to Senior Lecturer round.

Quote (Sin 22nd November) “….a key feature of [the promotions scheme] will be a mandatory gender quota, so it will be mandatory that at least 40% women will be successful in that round”

So it’s not going to be 52% after all — it is going to be just 40%! And that is hardly any actual increase. At the previous promotion round in 2013/14, once all of the many appeals had been dealt with, 39% of the promoted candidates were women. Which means the great radical gesture that Jim Browne trumpeted is being watered down by management to an increase of just one percent!!! You couldn’t make it up, could you!

So Micheline was right to be sceptical about Jim Browne’s claims for what NUI Galway would do, and Aoife Cooke’s patronising dismissal of Micheline in that same Sin article as being ‘out of touch’ is proved to be what it is – an attempt by someone who is selling management policy on ‘equality’ to undermine someone else who stands instead for the truth.

Here is Jim Browne in a press release quoted in various newspapers (e.g

Welcoming the report, NUIG president Dr Jim Browne said: “I look forward to working with all staff, staff representatives and unions in addressing gender equality in a meaningful and serious way. In this way, I expect that NUIG will become a leader in this space.

“We made a commitment a year ago to addressing gender equality across the University with the highest priority. I now want to reiterate this commitment, as our Governing Body adopts this taskforce report and its recommendations.”


[*note: The task force recommendation actually states that the percentage of women promoted should match the percentage of women eligible for promotion in the level from which they are being promoted. For the last round the only criterion for eligibility was that the candidate should be a Lecturer ‘Above the Bar’ and have been confirmed in the post. We don’t have the figures for the percentage of eligible candidates who are women. However, as the promotion from Lecturer ‘Beneath the Bar’ to Lecturer ‘Above the Bar’ is non-competitive, and as far more women have been passed over for promotion than men over the years, we can’t see how the percentage of eligible candidates can be lower than 52%.]

Two years on and NUI Galway still haven’t learnt

When Micheline first won her case, Jim Browne, the University President, said he wasn’t concerned about the resulting bad publicity as it would soon be over, replaced by a positive news story about NUI Galway. Well, here we are, two years later and the fall-out from her win is still causing bad publicity for NUI Galway. That’s precisely because management continues with the same attitude that if they ignore it, eventually it will go away. Instead there’s recently been another flurry of press reports.

Meanwhile, the student supporters of the campaign have set up a table on Tuesdays on the University’s main concourse where they are signing people up for a demo at the upcoming High Court hearing. The campaign plans to hire a couple of buses to take everyone. A mass of students demonstrating outside the High Court in Dublin against NUI Galway is going to result in a  tidal wave of bad publicity. Will management never get it?

table-croped-1The student’s table, next to Smokey’s Café on the main concourse.

The students are fired up about the injustice. There are five other female lecturers who deserved promotion as much as Micheline in the same senior lecturer promotion round in which 16 men were promoted and only one woman, despite 50% of junior lecturers being women.  Micheline says she knows this as she saw the application details and scoring for everyone shortlisted. But management refuse to do anything about it, even to set up an enquiry – instead all they do is delay the resulting court cases. IFUT, the staff union that represent two of the five women, issued a statement last week accusing the university of deliberate delay. In response, NUI Galway issued their own press release claiming that was not the case.

But what are the facts? One of the women, represented by IFUT, is taking a Labour Court case. You’d think that would be straightforward. After all, NUI Galway admitted to the Equality Tribunal that one of the promoted men wasn’t even eligible to apply for promotion while the woman who is taking this Labour Court case was deemed next in line for promotion by the promotion board. Thus, she should have been promoted. But instead, at the initial grievance procedure meeting required by the Labour Court, NUI Galway failed to show up. Then when the actual Labour Court hearing happened, five months later, and the judge asked if NUI Galway were prepared to attend a grievance procedure meeting rather than him making a ruling, they said yes. That hearing was in early May, more than six months ago. There still hasn’t been a proper grievance procedure meeting! We hear that when they did finally attend a meeting last month, the three people representing NUI Galway said they couldn’t do anything as they hadn’t any of the paper work – this is despite one of them being at the Labour Court hearing where NUI Galway had all that paper work! It’s no wonder IFUT then issued their press statement accusing NUI Galway of deliberate delay.

The four other women have to take High Court cases based on gender discrimination. In October, NUI Galway’s lawyers applied for and received permission for a pre-trial hearing that would deal with the legal arguments alone. NUI Galway claimed this was to potentially save the cost of a full High Court hearing but what it will also do, if successful, is prevent the facts from coming out, the reasons for sixteen men and only one woman being promoted – facts that would, if Micheline is right, be very embarrassing for management. The date the four women have now been offered for this pre-hearing is May 4th, 2017! That means that even if NUI Galway lose the pre-hearing, the actual High Court action itself might not happen until 2018! And the University claims they are not delaying things!!

This continual delay is truly awful for the five women concerned, but it is also detrimental for the university. It means NUI Galway continues to get bad publicity. For instance, the students will be there demonstrating outside the pre-hearing as well as any main hearing if that also happens. It means NUI Galway can’t be considered for an Athena Swan award while there are pending legal cases – something the HEA has told universities they have to receive if they want continued funding. It makes no sense. Promoting the five women would cost less than the annual salary being paid to the new Vice President for Equality. That’s a post that seems to be mostly about optics rather than change. But what’s the point of spending all that money on optics when you continue to undermine her by refusing to promote the five women? The only people that seem to gain from this continued delaying are the management themselves. At the rate they are going they’ll all be well out of the place before anything happens. Jim Browne himself certainly will be. He retires at the start of March 2018.


IFUT Press statement:



2 years after landmark case, not much has changed at NUIG

In City Tribune article by Dara Bradley,  Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington discusses the gender discrimination case she won in November 2014. Two years later, NUI Galway still has the lowest percentage of senior female academics at Irish universities. What’s more, five other women lecturers at NUI Galway who were interviewed in the same round in 2009 STILL have not been promoted. ‘It would make sense to promote the five women’, said Micheline. ‘The bad publicity arising from it has taken its toll.’

The complete article follows below.