Micheline Sheehy Skeffington to give inaugural speech at lecture series named in her honour

A lecture series named in honour of Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington and her successful fight for justice and equality for women at NUI Galway is starting next month at the University — and Micheline will be giving the first speech.

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The University Women’s Network (UWN) will launch the Annual Sheehy Skeffington Distinguished Lecture Series on Friday, March 8th, International Women’s Day, from 12.30 to 2 pm in the Aula Maxima at NUI Galway. Micheline will deliver the inaugural speech, titled ‘Standing up to injustice: my Sheehy Skeffington legacy’.

The UWN said the purpose of the series is to ‘mark the courage and persistence shown by Micheline Sheehy Skeffington in speaking up to the injustice shown to women here at NUI Galway.

‘In doing so, she has changed the university, and the whole sector, to all our benefit.’

Each year, the lecture series will celebrate people who have shown the courage to call out injustice and who stood their ground against adversity.

Micheline said she is deeply honoured, but stressed that the positive changes made at NUI Galway would not have been possible without the courage of the five women who took court cases against the University after they, like Micheline, were deemed suitable but not promoted in 2009. It was their willingness to stand up to the University that brought about the Gender Equality Campaign. Micheline also credits the dedication and hard work of campaign supporters with ensuring a successful end to the campaign after all the women were finally promoted last summer. 

“I’m overwhelmed by the honour,” Micheline said. “It’s hard to believe. However, I plan to talk about my grandparents’ and parents’ legacy as well as about my fight for gender equality, as in turn, I feel that my achievements are inevitably linked to their lives of activism.”

All are welcome to attend the lecture.

The event is free, but you can register to attend through Eventbrite by clicking the link below:

SHEEHY SKEFFINGTON LECTURE REGISTRATION

 

Big Celebration Party for success of campaign is a great night!

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Well, what a truly wonderful evening! Loads of you turned out for our Big Celebration Party in Galway last week and everyone seemed to have a great time. The band was fabulous, the venue and food were lovely and the company was excellent. The celebration provided a fitting tribute to what the six women have done for us. Shivaun Quinlivan, who provided introductions for the night, put their contributions in context before calling Róisín, Elizabeth, Adrienne, Sylvie, Margaret and Micheline, to the stage by listing all the positive changes for women that have occurred not only at NUI Galway but at all Irish universities because of the courageous stand the women made. They received a standing ovation.

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Micheline and partner Nick dancing to the Ska

The night also provided a much-needed processing for the four women who took the High Court cases. It was great to see them happy and dancing after four extremely difficult years. They said afterwards that it had allowed them to finally put all the unpleasantness behind them.

The campaign is now over. The work is done. All of us involved can sit back with the satisfaction we’ve done something of real worth to improve the world around us. Thank you for persisting.

If you want to know more about the campaign, just flick back through the previous posts to this site over the last four years.

Very Big Celebration!

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380 of you have registered to come on Friday! It’s going to be a wonderful night! We’ve a great venue, we’ve a great sound system, and it will be filled with like minded good people.  If you’re still in two minds check out our 10 piece band, Interskalactic  playing the classic Ska hit Al Capone.  Hope to see you there.

REGISTER and more info

Optional dress – Two Tone

Al Capone:

Big Celebration Party for Success of Campaign – please register and come join us!

 

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We’re having a great big party on Friday 12th October in Galway to celebrate the promotion of the women whose fight against gender discrimination this campaign supported. We’d like everyone who’s supported the campaign and/or supported the women, to come. What ever it is you did, even just cheering us on. We’ve hired a big venue and booked a really great 8 piece Ska band (check them out below). Use this link to find out more and register:

REGISTER (and info)

We really hope to see you there!

 

Big Celebration Party !

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We’re having a great big party on Friday 12th October in Galway to celebrate the promotion of the women whose fight against gender discrimination this campaign supported. We’d like everyone who supported the campaign, or supported the women in some other way, to come. We’ve hired a big venue and booked a really great band. (Check them out below).

We’ve emailed invites to everyone on our mailing list but we must have left out some supporters. If you’d like to come and you’ve done anything to support the campaign – bought a T shirt, handed out leaflets, demonstrated, come to the benefit concert, or whatever – then write to us at Mich3c@gmail.com and let us know what you did, and we’ll send you an invite.

Hope to see you there!

 

 

 

The campaign’s task is done.

With the settlement of the four women’s High Court cases, the aims of this campaign are achieved. The campaign started when previous University President Jim Browne claimed to RTE education reporter Emma O’Kelly that Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, who had recently won her high-profile case, was on his new Gender Equality Task Force. It was a lie which Micheline used to declare three conditions needed for her to join. When he refused to agree to them, she called an open meeting. At that meeting, this campaign was formed to achieve those three conditions:

Condition 1. That NUI Galway promotes the five other women who, along with Dr Sheehy Skeffington, were interviewed, deemed suitable, but not promoted in 2009.

Dr Elizabeth Tilley was promoted last year as a result of the Labour Court case she took over the 2009 promotion round, Dr Adrienne Gorman was promoted through the 2016/17 promotion round, and the settlement of the High Court cases taken by Dr Róisín Healy, Dr Margaret Hodgins and Dr Sylvie Lannegrand along with Dr Gorman includes their promotion to Senior Lecturer. So all five women have now been promoted.

Condition 2. That NUI Galway puts right the subsequent promotion round to Senior Lecturer in 2014 in a way which ensures gender balance among the successful candidates.

The only women to challenge this round in court were the same four women who took the High Court cases. They took parallel cases in the District Court under the Equality Act (for which they were out of time for the 2009 round) . In settling their High Court cases, they agreed to withdraw these other cases.

Condition 3. That NUI Galway starts to address the issue of gender imbalance in senior posts by adopting a policy of promoting the same percentage of women from each level as the percentage of women at that level.

This policy was adopted by NUI Galway in 2016. NUI Galway was the first Irish or British university to adopt a quota system to address gender imbalance. The University then announced that the 2016/17 quota would be only 40%, rising at the following promotion round to 50%. We made much of the fact that 40% was only a 1% improvement on the previous round. For the actual round, 50% of those promoted were female.

NUI Galway has continued to improve the situation for female academics, part of profound changes occurring for all women employed in Irish higher education, ensured by the threat from government to withhold research grants if they are not made. We believe all this came about, first through Micheline’s Equality Tribunal win, but also crucially by the continuing media coverage made possible by the four women taking High Court cases.

We also believe that the four women’s settlement was down to that publicity, much of which we created, not their lawyers. In the upcoming court case, NUI Galway was attempting to have the women’s cases thrown out on a technicality and could well have succeeded. However, having seen how large our demonstration was likely to be outside the High Court — the holding of which was stopped by the last-minute deferral for arbitration — NUI Galway, we now know, decided they had to avoid any further hearings because of all the bad publicity.

The day after the settlement at the High Court, Micheline met with the four women. She tweeted this picture of her with Adrienne, Sylvie, Margaret and Róisín.

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At their meeting, they discussed what to do with the leftover money raised by this campaign for legal fees. The four women and Micheline agreed that the money returned from the legal fees should go to what was specified by the campaign when raising the money — a fund for other women with employment issues at NUI Galway. The campaign will explore how such a fund might be possible.

They also agreed to have a celebratory party, but in October, to give time for everyone to recover, to which they hope as many supporters as possible will come!

When we know more about both, we will post it here.

Irish society has been changed for the better and none of what has happened would have been possible without your support, however apparently minor it may seem to you. We now know that NUI Galway started to really fear what this campaign could do once we had that benefit concert with 800 people at it. It doesn’t take much to scare bullies! All you have to do is have the courage to stand up to them.

Thank you.

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NUI Galway Settles High Court Gender Discrimination Cases

It’s over! We’ve won! NUI Galway has finally, after four long years, settled with the four female academics taking the High Court cases for gender discrimination in the promotion round of 2009. Today at the High Court the cases are to be withdrawn. We don’t know the settlement details but we do know that all the women ever wanted was their rightful promotion to Senior Lecturer and their pay backdated to 2009, or some equivalent. They were not seeking compensation as part of any possible settlement.

We know this deal was done in February by the new University President, Ciarán hÓgartaigh, when he met with the four women at his first opportunity, having had to wait for one of them to return from abroad. Whatever the settlement was that he offered them, the women accepted it at that meeting. Since then NUI Galway has been waiting for government approval, having to defer the court cases twice in the mean time. The deferred hearing, of NUI Galway’s attempt to have the cases dismissed on a technicality, was rescheduled for today.

Micheline is delighted by the news and impressed with new President hÓgartaigh’s actions. The settlement is just one of several that show he understands the need to correct the way women have been treated at NUI Galway. In her statement, sent out to the press and us, Micheline points to the stark contrast with the previous regime at NUI Galway, lead by President Jim Browne.

“That President Ó hÓgartaigh settled these cases so easily and so soon after coming into office gives the lie to all those claims by the previous regime that there was nothing they could do! In fact the previous President, Jim Browne, could have solved this situation four years ago when I went to see him after my Equality Tribunal win and told him everything I’d found out! But he just dismissed me, and then he dismissed the four women when they later went to see him before commencing their High Court cases. The previous management regime believed they could always bully women into backing down.

“I arranged that meeting with President Browne to share all the information I’d found out about the 2008/9 round of promotions. Some of it wasn’t mentioned in the Equality Tribunal ruling and I wanted him to know how badly it would affect NUI Galway’s reputation if it became public through a High Court case. Jim Browne just cut me off and said they could weather it, that there would be good news the following week and everyone would forget it. Well he was totally wrong, wasn’t he? NUI Galway ended up with four years of bad publicity and a very large legal bill because of that!”

Micheline also praised the courage and fortitude of the four women who took the court cases, as do we. Dr Adrienne Gorman, Dr Róisín Healy, Dr Margaret Hodgins and Dr Sylvie Lannegrand, have had to endure an awful four years. As did Dr Elizabeth Tilley who took a separate Labour Court case which was resolved last year. Until recently, when it became clear that they were likely to eventually win, it was a lonely time for them, during which they had to withstand threats from management and the real risk they might lose their case and have to pay large legal bills.  As Micheline points out:

“It was the courage of these five women to stand up to the endemic bullying of women at NUI Galway that has led to this result. It is also thanks to their courage, and all the resulting publicity generated through the resulting campaign, that all academic women will benefit from the radical changes promised both for NUI Galway and for all Irish Universities.”

“So as well as congratulating them, I really want to thank them. What they did was as courageous as my grandmother Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s smashing of Dublin Castle’s windows for women’s suffrage.  Hanna was imprisoned, but that was for just two months. These women have had to endure four years! “ 

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Micheline (centre) with Margaret, Adrienne, Elizabeth, Sylvie and Róisín in 2014 when it all began

The High Court cases followed Micheline Sheehy Skeffington’s Equality Tribunal win of 2014, in which she proved gender discrimination in the 2008/9 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer. In that round 16 men were promoted but only one woman, even though more than 50% of junior lecturers were women. Through that case Micheline got to see the application forms of all 30 academics who were shortlisted and so was able to state categorically that the five other women shortlisted but not promoted were also discriminated against and should be promoted.

After her win Micheline went to see President Jim Browne to tell him everything she had discovered through her case and to ask him to promote the five other shortlisted women. When he refused, she gave the €70,000 compensation she was awarded by the Equality Tribunal to help fund the women’s court cases. Then she called a meeting in NUI Galway at which this campaign was started to support the women. Since then she and we have been fighting to ensure NUI Galway does the right thing by these five women. The background and all the campaign actions are on this web page.

Last year one of the five, Dr Elizabeth Tilley, was promoted through a Labour Court case that was not based on gender discrimination. She was ranked next in line for promotion by the promotion board and could argue she should be promoted as Micheline’s case had revealed that one of the promoted men wasn’t eligible to apply.

Micheline has never spoken of the scandal she uncovered through her Equality Tribunal hearing, which was held behind closed doors, but we have revealed what the campaign has worked out for ourselves and how President Jim Browne is implicated. Interestingly, Micheline is actually now free to talk about it herself, if she should choose to. If she had revealed anything previously, NUI Galway could then have argued in the High Court that the four women should not be allowed access to the same ‘personal’ information.

Micheline finishes her statement with a call for NUI Galway to go further:

“I now call on the new University President to commit NUI Galway to widen the changes they are implementing for women to include improving the conditions of all in short term teaching and research contracts, most of whom are women at NUI Galway, as well as the women in admin and building services who have been much mistreated through lack of respect, understaffing, low status and poor pay.”

Next good act by new President to be announcing end of High Court cases?

board tweet 2NUI Galway’s new President, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh , is proving a refreshing and enlightened improvement on the previous regime headed by Jim Browne. Micheline tweeted her delight today at the change to the university boardroom. The glowering rows of portraits of previous President’s, all of them male and many of them clerics, have been banished. Female academics had long complained how intimidating a place the boardroom was – particularly as this was where their interviews for promotion took place. We used pictures of the boardroom last year to illustrate our post on the influence of the Church, and particularly Opus Dei, on NUI Galway.

We hope to soon announce a more significant change which is down to the new University President: the promotion of the four women taking High Court gender discrimination cases against NUI Galway. We know President Ó hÓgartaigh offered them an acceptable solution soon after he took office. That was five months ago. We now hear there’s been a big push by NUI Galway to get government to finally sign off on the agreement for this week. That’s not surprising, as this Wednesday is the rescheduled High Court hearing into NUI Galway’s attempt to have the cases thrown out on a technicality. As the hearing has been deferred twice already, because of the potential deal, a further deferral, wasting yet more court time, would not be viewed sympathetically by the judge.

So watch this space! Either shortly, it’s all going to be over and we can all celebrate, or there could be a lot of upset in NUI Galway!

Oh, and we must add something else about the removal of the portraits. Their removal means Jim Browne won’t have his own portrait hung in the boardroom. It seems so appropriate that he is banished too. As he, hopefully, is going to be the last NUI Galway President to be so dismissive of the potential of the university’s female staff.

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Bye bye fellas!

Is The End In Sight?

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The above report appeared in the Connacht Tribune last Thursday, but is it right? Are we really near the end of the campaign, and can we soon celebrate the four women finally being given what they deserve by NUI Galway? Or is this simply university management feeding the press a line? The campaign knows management told another reporter, more than a month ago, that the cases were settled and it was just a matter of weeks before the agreement would be announced. We suspect this is also what the Athena SWAN were told so that the university could get the bronze award last month. That information was given to the previous journalist ‘off the record’; now, it seems Dara Bradley from the Tribune is allowed to report it. But we in the campaign are still sceptical.

We are confident the four women did meet with the new President, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, without lawyers, back in February, soon after he came into office and that, following the meeting, they were happy. Several reliable sources have told us that. But if a deal was done in February, then why still no announcement at the end of June? The recent revelation about the University of Limerick points to the need for caution. Last year, their management put out a story that a settlement had been agreed between the two whistleblowers and their new President. That was celebrated in the press, but now the Limerick Leader reports that there’s still no agreed settlement.

We are not going to give up until the four women actually get what they deserve. The campaign is in suspension mode in the hope there will be a resolution, but promises and spinning stories to the press are not going to make us go away.

We guess the holdup is probably financial — thus the reference in Dara Bradley’s story to the Dept of Finance. But we can’t believe the delay is caused by the sum of money the women have been offered, as their demands have always been so moderate. They have always told management they simply wanted their rightful promotion, and the promotion back dated to 2009. They have not sought compensation, and it is likely, knowing how reasonable they have been, that they compromised with the new President. The back pay Micheline received was just €23,000. She was working half time for much of the 6 years and it has now been ten years since they should all have been promoted. But even if they have been offered all of that, which we think unlikely, the amount of money is not enough to cause the government to baulk at agreeing to it. So what might be the cause for the delay?

It is notable that no lawyers were present when the new President met the four women. Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh‘s predecessor, Jim Browne, relied heavily on lawyers. Jim’s policy was well known in NUI Galway: fight everything in an attempt to bully staff into submission. We’ve heard that Jim Browne even reckoned Micheline only won her case because NUI Galway didn’t pay for a good lawyer. Instead, John Brennan of the Irish Business and Employers Federation, IBEC, defended NUI Galway at the Equality Tribunal. For the four women’s cases, NUI Galway employed Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors and Senior Council Cliona Kimber, neither of whom is cheap. Thanks to Jim Browne’s intransigence, the case has now been going on for four years, time enough to build up a huge legal bill. We suspect it is this bill that the government is baulking at paying.

It is sad that we have campaigned for four years only to get to this point: the four women being forced to wait more than five months for their rightful settlement because of the greed of lawyers — particularly as it wasn’t the lawyers who forced NUI Galway into a corner and lead to management being determined to avoid any further court hearings (we have been told that on good authority). It was this campaign, all your support for the four women, and specifically the massive turnout that management could see was about to happen at our demonstration outside the High Court planned for the first hearing last year — a hearing which was then cancelled at the last minute. All institutions hate bad publicity and, boy, have we given NUI Galway bad publicity!

It is not the four women’s fault if there is now a huge legal bill. They delayed the start of their legal case for over a year in an attempt to settle, but Jim Browne insisted they had to prove the discrimination in court. He said he couldn’t promote them, despite Micheline having proved gender discrimination for the same promotion round, where 16 men were promoted but only one woman. He said there was nothing he could do to settle their grievance, that they had to prove gender discrimination in court. The new President’s actions have proved that to be the lie it always was. Thus the fault for the legal bill, whatever it is, is squarely with NUI Galway.  So why can’t NUI Galway pay the legal bill, for both sides, and NOT the taxpayer? The University has more than enough funds in its Foundation which, according to the Irish Times, has assets of more than €57 million! We are certain the government would have no problem just paying for the agreement with the women — an agreement that was possible four years ago, if it hadn’t been for Jim Browne’s intransigence.