Is The End In Sight?

near tribune

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.

 

 

 

 

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Hanna’s ‘Smashed these windows’ plaque to be unveiled next Wednesday by President Higgins

Hanna Sheehy Skeffingon’s blue plaque on the side of Dublin Castle with  “Smashed These Windows” is being unveiled next Weds 13th June, the anniversary of when Hanna smashed the windows in 1912 as part of the first militant suffrage action in Ireland. Following the extensive publicity for the re-enactment by Micheline of the window smashing on the 100th anniversary of Irish women getting the vote, Micheline asked President Higgins if he would do her the honour of unveiling the plaque and he agreed.ceremony7

Micheline is delighted both because this means the State is honouring her grandmother Hanna and the other Irish Suffragettes but also because she is sure President Higgins will make a good speech, having spoken movingly in 2016 about Hanna on the anniversary of the shooting of her husband Frank by British firing squad.

The other Irish Suffragettes will also be honoured on the day. Dr Margaret Ward has provided a list of all the Irish women imprisoned for suffrage activity along with their sentences. This will be read out by young women (much the age the suffragettes were then) from the Galway Feminist Collective dressed in period costume. It is a powerful reading with prison sentences of up to six months, often with hard labour, with many of the women, including Hanna, serving several sentences.Banner english2

Micheline has asked the National Museum to provide the original Irish Women’s Franchise League banner as used by Hanna and the other members of the League, which was kept by her family. It should be an emotional occasion. One last flying of the hand-embroidered banner while these women’s incredible courage is honoured by the Irish State. Please come if you can and help Micheline honour them.

1.30pm, Ship Street Entrance, Dublin Castle, Weds June 13th. SITE MAP

 

NUI Galway awarded Athena SWAN Bronze despite not promoting four female lecturers taking High Court cases.

NUI Galway have been awarded the Athena SWAN Bronze award for gender equality. Future government research funding to Irish universities is dependent on universities receiving this award. NUI Galway was one of only two Irish universities who had not been awarded Bronze and the only Irish university whose application had been refused twice. We believe this was because of all the bad publicity NUI Galway had received through this campaign. Before NUI Galway applied for a third time Micheline Sheehy Skeffington wrote an open letter, published in the media, insisting they first promote the women. Then when NUI Galway ignored this and went ahead with their application she, and at least 15 other people, objected. They all argued that NUI Galway did not deserve the award while there were four women taking High Court cases for gender discrimination.

It is both surprising and disappointing that Athena SWAN has now awarded Bronze to NUI Galway as the university’s third application was simply the resubmission of the second application with no significant changes. We suspect that NUI Galway has assured Athena SWAN that a deal has been done with the women. Indeed last week the High Court hearing scheduled for Wednesday was again adjourned, this time for four weeks. As this pre trail hearing was an attempt by NUI Galway to have the women’s cases dismissed, it could be that an agreement has been reached. But if that is the case why has it not been announced? It is now four months since the new University President, Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, took up his post, with assurances that past mistakes would be rectified.

Micheline is shocked by the news. ‘How can Athena SWAN give an award for gender equality to a university that has still not put right blatant gender discrimination from nine years ago! Since the new University President has been in post there have been a lot of promises, but these four women have still not been promoted. It is not promises we are interested in and Athena SWAN should not have been influenced by them either. The injustice has to be put right!’

The Campaign is right behind Micheline in this. We note the Irish Times article published today makes little of the fact that the women are still to be promoted. Have the press also been quietly assured a deal has been done? If there is a deal where is it? Why no announcement? And why is it held up, and for so long? It is all deeply suspicious.

 

Hanna & Me – First Part of Documentary Complete

Director Sé Merry Doyle of Loopline Films has assembled this 30 minute clip using the footage Joanna and Eddie filmed of the first part of Micheline’s tour. This will be the basis for the opening of the eventual Hanna & Me documentary. This footage, plus the footage of the rest of the tour and Sé’s time editing the clip has been paid for with the €25,000 raised through the Indiegogo crowd funding campaign. That campaign is now closed.

If you like what you see (and bear in mind the final film will be even more polished) and you want to help its completion, you can now donate directly at Loopline: Hanna & Me

Loopline will use this clip to apply for funds from various bodies in Ireland, such as the Irish Film Board and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with RTÉ. But the more donations, however small, that Loopline receive the easier that will be. As well as helping financially donations also show how much support the project has. Micheline herself will be contributing further.

Please share this clip with friends and include the Loopline link. The minimum needed to complete a simple documentary is around €8,000. That will produce a film suitable for viewing on-line, etc. More money than that will enable Se to access further archives and pay for more advanced technological input to bring it to cinema and broadcasting quality. That has always been Micheline’s ultimate goal, so to ensure as wide a commemoration of her grandmother’s achievement as possible.

Thank you all who have contributed so far. This was only possible because of your amazing generosity!

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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

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(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

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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.