Micheline’s re-enactment is smashing success, but she questions, Why isn’t there more to honour women’s courage?

On the 100th anniversary of women in Ireland gaining the right to vote, Micheline re-created her defiant grandmother Hanna Sheehy Skeffington’s act of civil disobedience against patriarchy by smashing window panes at Dublin Castle.

The day was perfect. Cold, but with bright blue skies. Micheline arrived early at the Castle Ship St entrance to meet her film crew and actor Rob McCarthy for rehearsals in a near-empty street. It was to be filmed for the documentary she’s making about her grandmother’s US tour. Cameraman Eddie Mullarkey and Director Sé Merry Doyle of Loopline Films were in attendance. By the time 11am came around, the place was mobbed with journalists wielding cameras and microphones all jostling to get her attention.

Gradually, a crowd of supporters turned up and, at 11.30, it was ‘Action!’ Micheline, dressed as a suffragette, walked down the steps at the side of the castle entrance, strode past a ‘policeman’ (in period costume) and, armed with a stick in her left hand, proceeded to smash a series of sugar glass panes in one of the nearby windows, to whoops and cheers from the crowd. She was promptly ‘arrested’ by the police officer. This deed was in conjunction with the erection of the plaque to honour the brave action taken in 1912 by her grandmother, who was jailed for two months for her vandalism.

(Above photos and directly below, copyright Julien Behal/Courtesy of OPW)

Photo copyright Julien Bihal

The City Council kindly provided an excellent facsimile of the plaque which was on display next to the smashed window. The Irish version of the wording is even more


(Photo of plaque by Mary McCoy)

graphic and got approving comment!

Micheline (having been ‘released’) then made her soap-box speech to a large attentive crowd (and some bemused tourists), reminding people that Hanna was very courageous in 1912 as it was 5am, she was virtually alone – and the Castle was full of British military. She explained why this re-enactment was arranged for Feb. 6, as it was exactly 100 years since, in 1918, the Representation of the People Act allowed women over 30, who had property rights or a university education to vote for the first time in Ireland (and Britain). It wasn’t until independence in 1922 that women gained equal voting rights with men in Ireland – six years before they did in Britain.

Micheline spoke of how women have made gains in 100 years, but more change is needed.

‘It is the courage of people who take a sometimes unpopular stance that we celebrate today,’ she said, and then referred to the female lecturers at NUI Galway who are still fighting for their right to be promoted. She highlighted their bravery in standing up to their employer.

“There is a sea change happening with movements like Waking the Feminists and MeToo, but it takes enormous courage to stick with it,” she said.

But what was especially striking was the level of interest from the media, which was well represented in all outlets the following day. “It felt like being in an ongoing film,” said Micheline, “with the battery of cameras flashing off and the array of mikes with questions fired at me from all sides.” Although she was overjoyed with the success of and interest in the re-enactment , another aspect shocked her.

‘Why was there nothing else at all planned for this centenary date?’ she asked.

She also questioned why there was no exhibition in the National Museum, though the Oireachtas is planning one later this year. “And why are there no stamps? An Post has none listed for their 2018 programme. Why not have a series with Hanna, but also Meg Connery, Margaret Cousins, Marguerite Palmer, Kathleen Houston, Hilda Webb and more?” And these were just the militants! “Ironically, John Redmond is to get a stamp — John Redmond whose Irish Party steadfastly opposed the women’s vote. Can you credit that?” she asked the crowd.

She gave an illustrated talk at a reception hosted by the Lord Mayor at the Mansion House and told about her grandparents’ exploits, but questioning again the lack of national interest in the day. Certainly the Office of Public Works (OPW), which suggested and coordinated the re-enactment, and Dublin City Council, which approved the slightly esoteric plaque and whose Mayor was hugely supportive of the commemoration, deserve all the credit for enabling the day to be marked. “This is to commemorate all courageous women who refuse to be treated unfairly. I’m so grateful to all who helped make it happen,” Micheline said.

The best bit of media coverage of the window-smashing event we could find is here: https://www.gettyimages.ie/detail/video/micheline-sheehy-skeffington-grand-daughter-of-one-of-news-footage/915264736

And Micheline, along with writer and journalist Nell McCafferty, historian and UCD lecturer on gender studies Dr Mary McAuliffe and feminist historian Dr Margaret Ward, spoke about women’s progress since gaining the right to vote on ‘Sunday with Miriam’ on RTE Radio. Listen to their conversation here at: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/sunday-with-miriam/podcasts/


Micheline gets ‘Smashed These Windows’ blue plaque on Dublin Castle for her grandmother Hanna


Ship Street Entrance of Dublin Castle where Hanna smashed the windows

Micheline has succeeded with her application for a ‘smashed these windows’ blue plaque on Dublin Castle for her grandmother Hanna Sheehy Skeffington. Her application, made nearly two months ago, had to wait for the next meeting of the Dublin City Council’s Commemorative Naming Committee, but in the meantime it has garnered more and more support. The Dublin Castle Commissioners were very keen and suggested a re-enactment, with Micheline smashing an actual window! The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheál Mac Donncha, offered his support and a reception in the Mansion House afterwards. Her tweets about all this then went viral. This one with a photo of the application form has been seen by over 39,000 people and ‘liked’ by over 1,400 of them!

Micheline then discovered proof that Hanna had smashed more than one window so the tweetplaquewording was amended from ‘this window’ to ‘these windows’.

Micheline asked for the plaque to be unveiled on February 6th, the 100th anniversary of Irish women getting the vote, but that is too soon to have the actual plaque manufactured. Instead there will be a ceremony at Dublin Castle with the design for the plaque unveiled and the window smashing re-enactment. Then Micheline, dressed still as a suffragette, will give a speech, standing on a ‘soapbox’ as Hanna used to.

This will be the first plaque or other public monument dedicated to the actions of the Irish suffragettes. Their courageous actions finally forced the government to grant women the vote, with the resulting bill signed into law on Feb 6th 1918.

Hanna’s act was part of the first direct action for suffrage undertaken in Ireland on 13th June 1912 in response to votes for women being excluded from the Home Rule bill, and was organised by the Irish Women’s Franchise League, founded by Hanna and Margaret Cousins. Early in the morning they set off to deliberately smash windows in government buildings. Some of the party went to the Customs House and, having succeeded there without arrest, went on to the GPO to smash more windows. But Hanna, alone, opted for Dublin Castle, the actual seat of British Government power. Here is her own account:

“To my lot fell Dublin Castle in the bombardment. I specially asked for it when we were planning our attack – “the treasured wrongs of fifty years” etc. Ship Street was the venue near the Castle Gate; the panes were small and very dirty (I expect they still are), and the garrison was near at hand, so I did not get far with the breakage (only enough, as it proved, for a three-month stretch – The Custom House-G.P.O. band got six). The policeman who grabbed my arm instinctively seized the right, and, as I am left handed, that gave me a chance to get in a few more panes before the military arrived and my escort led me off.”

Hanna served her sentence in Mountjoy. Her prison form has “female suffrage agitator ” whose “crime” was “wilfully (sic) damage to the extent of £1 1s 0d to 19 panes property of the War Department”. She could have been out on bail for her second month but she refused it. Instead she went on hunger strike. Then, when she was released, she lost her teaching job. Hanna was 35 years old with a 3-year-old child, Owen, Micheline’s father, who was cared for by her husband, Francis, also a staunch feminist.

Micheline strongly believes that power and privilege are never given up easily, by any section of society that may have them, and that while some men might be sympathetic about the position of women, things only change through women, like Hanna, standing up and demanding that change. That is why Micheline took her Equality Tribunal case, despite being told she had little chance of winning , and that’s why she, and we, have continued to support the five women who took court cases against NUI Galway about that same deeply discriminatory promotion round.

You are welcome at Dublin Castle next Tuesday to help us honour Hanna.

Dublin Castle, Ship St Entrance, 11.30am Tuesday 6th February.       EVENT MAP


With new leader, ‘ray of hope’ for gender equality cases at NUI Galway

New NUIG president

New NUIG president Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

The new president of NUI Galway was asked about the university’s gender bias controversy in a recent newspaper interview and his response leaves some hope for the women with outstanding court cases.

In the interview with Charlie McBride that was published in the Galway Advertiser on Jan. 25th, NUI Galway President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh acknowledged the gender equality issue, saying:
I’m very conscious there are colleagues involved in that controversy and I’d much prefer to talk to them first rather than in public.
He went on to say that he thinks significant policies are making a difference at the university:
In the recent round of promotions, 58 per cent of the senior lecturer promotions were female and many of the policies that are here now are more pro-active around gender than any organisation I’ve ever been in. I’m very pleased about that. I am particularly looking forward to seeing us being leaders in this space and that we are making a difference in that context.
As we have pointed out in other posts, the 58% figure is misleading as it includes the promotion of some University Teachers, a category of teachers who do not conduct research. This was the first time that University Teachers, nearly all of whom are women, were included in the promotion statistics. In actuality, 14 of the 28 Junior Lecturers promoted to Senior Lecturers in the last round were women, amounting to 50%. It’s certainly good that the University Teachers were promoted, but if they are to be included from now on in the statistics, then the amount needed to meet the gender quota would be much higher than 52%.
Still, Micheline saw some promise in what the new president said, tweeting part of his statement over the weekend on Twitter:
Mich tweet
We are hopeful, too, that she is right.
To read the Galway Advertiser article in full, click here.

New era at NUI Galway: Let’s hope it bodes well for women’s promotions

A new era has begun at NUI Galway. We hope it becomes the era of gender equality where the women who have filed discrimination suits against the university are – after what is now a nine-year wait – finally promoted.

Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, a Galway native, took over as president of the university this month, ending the 10-year reign of Dr Jim Browne.

Dr Browne gave a stunning parting interview to Cois Coiribe, NUI Galway’s annual magazine for alumni, that at best could be described as hypocritical.

‘My one regret is that we did not address the equality issue sooner,’ Dr Browne said, adding that he hopes the university becomes a leader in gender equality. He went on to explain that the university recognises now that the issue is a ‘general social problem and is systemic’.

Incredibly, he added: ‘Unfortunately, our focus was on academic promotions and seeking to achieve better outcomes for women in that domain.’

Really? Tell that to the four women who are STILL fighting in the High Court for their right to be promoted from Junior Lecturer to Senior Lecturer after they were denied promotions in the 2008-2009 round. Or tell that to Dr Elizabeth Tilley, who was also overlooked for promotion in that round but was finally promoted in October 2017 after taking her gender discrimination case to the Labour Court. Or tell that to Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, another victim of gender discrimination from that same promotion round, who was not promoted until November 2014 after the Equality Tribunal ruled she was discriminated against both directly and indirectly.

In the interview, reported by Dara Bradley in the Jan. 19th edition of the Connacht Tribune, Dr Browne went on to point out the progress made at NUI Galway, including the appointment in February 2016 of Professor Anne Scott as vice president for Equality and Diversity and the adoption of her gender equality report’s recommendations, which he said are being implemented.

‘We want to ensure that more women are promoted to senior posts and to ensure that equality of opportunity is afforded to all our staff and students,’ Dr Browne said.

The campaign believes that this sentiment would have been a lot more sincere if the university had acknowledged the discrimination against women by promoting them. Instead, the women were forced to go to court at their expense as well as taxpayers’ expense with the university wasting money that could have been put to better use to benefit students, staff and programmes. Nevertheless, we are confident that the four women still fighting in the High Court will be promoted – with back pay to 2009.

There is one statement voiced by Dr Browne that we couldn’t fault.

‘We know organisations with gender diversity in the senior ranks make better decisions and ultimately perform better,’ he said.

Well, at least he’s learnt that.

Law journal article examines fallout from Sheehy Skeffington case, says implementation is key for change

  • The Sheehy Skeffington v NUI Galway decision helped expose systemic gender discrimination at Irish universities.
  • The landmark ruling led to the Higher Education Authority issuing a Gender Equality Review with recommendations for bringing about the radical change needed to ensure gender equality.
  • Unless implemented, the recommendations change nothing.

These are some of the main points of ‘Disrupting the Status Quo? Discrimination in Academic Promotions’, an eight-page article by Dr Shivaun Quinlivan, NUI Galway law lecturer, for the Irish Employment Law Journal.

While the HEA’s Gender Equality Review is in many respects radical, Dr Quinlivan concludes, ‘without implementation it is merely a report gathering dust on the shelves.’

The article, published last July, brings to the fore the core issues and requirements for effecting real change for gender equality in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland by examining the Sheehy Skeffington case, which ‘has had repercussions far beyond the actual decision.’

In addition to referencing the Equality Tribunal’s characterisation of the Senior Lecturer interview process as ‘ramshackle’, the article outlined the bias in favour of men during the 2008-2009 Senior Lecturer promotion round during which 17 people were promoted – 16 men and 1 woman.

The article is the first clear acknowledgement of the combined effects of the Micheline’s Three Conditions campaign and the SIPTU equality campaign.

Essentially, the article looks at:

  1. The wider effects of the ruling in Micheline’s case, which proved direct and indirect discrimination, and was ‘significantly more far reaching’ than Dr Sheehy Skeffington, leading to lawsuits filed by five other women as well as the HEA report.
  2. How the next highest-ranked applicant (Dr Elizabeth Tilley) should never have had to take her case to court after it was revealed that one of the successful candidates wasn’t even eligible for promotion.
  3. The furor over the discrimination raised by SIPTU and the Micheline’s Three Conditions Campaign.
  4. The HEA report’s emphasis on the need for an ‘organisational and cultural shift’, noting that the authors of the report would ‘not have believed it necessary’ to have to make such radical recommendations.
  5. How the ‘disparity of power and position’ (with respect to gender) across the HEI sector is highlighted in the report.
  6. The cascade system for gender quotas* and how there is resistance even from women despite studies proving they increase, not decrease, excellence. (*One of Micheline’s Three Conditions).
  7. The glass ceiling is noted as being clearly between Lecturer and Senior Lecturer, not at the Professor level.

The Quinlivan article also mentions the HEA recommendation stating that funding should be contingent on the institution receiving a minimum Bronze Athena SWAN award. NUI Galway, which has yet to achieve Bronze level, submitted its third application for such an award in November 2017.

The article’s emphasis on the need to change the culture of an institution is significant as such change is not quantifiable in easy metrics, a factor picked up by the HEA report:

http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/04/hea_review_of_gender_equality_in_irish_higher_education.pdf  on p. 17.

Dr Quinlivan’s article can be read in full here.

Also of interest is that in the most recent HEA report (July 2017; http://hea.ie/assets/uploads/2017/07/HEA-Institutional-Staff-Profiles-Gender-July-2017-003.pdf), Athena SWAN awards applied for or obtained are listed for each institution.

We post the NUI Galway Athena SWAN application

The campaign has been sent NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN application. This is the application that was submitted by the closing date of November 30th but which has failed to appear, or even be acknowledged, on NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN web page. This is the application they haven’t sent to Micheline and others who have asked for a copy, deliberately hindering any objections. Their action is in contrast to Maynooth University’s open announcement and application publication on Dec 1st.

Because NUI Galway won’t post their application on their web page, we have posted it below. Please note the line on Page 14: drafts of the application and action plan were circulated to all staff’. We know for a fact that that statement is not true.

If you have not submitted an objection yet, then please do. Just a simple line saying ‘NUI Galway should address the gender discrimination resulting from the ’08/’09 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer before they are given the award’ is enough. You can cite Micheline’s Open Letter for the details (which Athena SWAN have). Send it to athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk.

If you want to add other objections, like the untruth we pointed out above and/or the withholding of the application, then please do. Or perhaps you could cite the fact that no woman has been appointed to posts with any power: the new President is a man, the recently appointed College Deans have all been men, the recently appointed heads of research institutes, e.g., the Ryan Institute, have all been men.

Athena SWAN have now written to a supporter that objections need not be in by the end of this week, but by their return after the New Year.

We can’t tell you who sent us the application, but we can say we are very grateful.

Athena Swan Bronze Institution Application_NUIG_Nov17 submitted 30th Nov 2017 for print version Dec 1st 2017

NUI Galway have applied to Athena SWAN but are not making application available!

A campaign member who wrote to the Athena SWAN board has been told that NUI Galway has applied for a gender equality award (closing date November 30th) but there is no requirement for NUI Galway to make its application available! They were also told they had only until the end of this week to submit an objection — to an application they have no access to!

Campaign members, including Micheline, who have written to Prof Anne Scott, the Chair of NUI Galway’s Athena SWAN committee, asking for copies of the application have received no reply.

We are now convinced this is a deliberate attempt to prevent any objections. Please help us ensure that NUI Galway does not get away with it! Here is where you can send an objection: athenaswan@ecu.ac.uk

Let them know you object to NUI Galway’s application as they have not dealt with the ongoing gender discrimination from the 2008/2009 round of promotions to Senior Lecturer. You can cite Micheline’s open letter (sent to the Athena SWAN board at the time).

If anyone can send us NUI Galway’s application, we will post it online here!