Last Thursday, NUI Galway President Jim Browne was called before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee and grilled for more than an hour by its members. Inevitably, even at a meeting about finance, some of the questioning concerned the problems for women at NUI Galway. The session was filmed and is available online, where Jim Browne’s belligerent responses (referred to as ‘tetchy’ by one TD) make fascinating viewing. However, here we want to focus on his response when asked about the High Court cases being undertaken by the female lecturers who were not promoted along with Micheline in the 2008/2009 promotion round. Amidst his hypocritical expressions of concern and regret, there was a choice example of Jim Browne’s propensity for disinformation. To quote him exactly:
‘There are now four female colleagues who have taken us to the High Court. …. I seriously regret that. I would have preferred they had taken it through our own procedures. They did not choose to do that. That is their right…. ’
He implies that if only the five women had dealt with this matter internally, all could have been resolved, does he not? So what procedures might he be referring to?
When Micheline was turned down for promotion in 2009, she appealed the decision using NUI Galway’s internal procedure. It did her no good: She was told there was no gender discrimination and there was nothing wrong with the promotion process. So that can’t be the procedure that Jim Browne is suggesting the other women should have taken.
After Micheline had won her subsequent appeal to the Equality Tribunal, she went to see Jim Browne and told him the discrimination she had unearthed and how it applied equally to the other five women. He refused to do anything about it. So that can’t be the procedure he is thinking of.
Once the five women had met with Micheline and found themselves a solicitor, they went to see Jim Browne. This was before they instigated their High Court cases. He told them they had been judged by their peers and had to accept it. So that can’t be the procedure.
At a meeting of NUI Galway’s Governing Body, some of the members proposed that the five women should be promoted. Jim Browne told them the Governing Body had no powers in the matter. So that can’t be the procedure.
The five women later met with both Jim Browne and the Chair of the Governing Body, Catherine McGuinness. The women were told there was nothing that could be done. So that can’t be the procedure.
The injustice for the five women was brought up by other academics at the university’s Academic Council. Jim Browne said the Academic Council could do nothing. So that was not the procedure.
So where is this internal NUI Galway procedure that Jim Browne regrets the women did not make use of? The truth is that every attempt to deal with the injustice suffered by the five women has been stonewalled, usually by Jim Browne himself. Thus, it is both hypocritical and dishonest for him to imply that the five women are at fault for not seeking to resolve the matter through NUI Galway. Both they and Micheline have consistently tried to find a resolution, often delaying the next step in the hope that a resolution could be found. Despite Jim Browne’s public utterances that he wants to help the women, he has never initiated a meeting himself and has never offered to do anything for them at the meetings they have instigated. Instead, he says that he can do nothing.
However, this, too, is untrue. NUI Galway could have done something. At the least, there could have been an internal investigation into the 2008/2009 promotion round following Micheline’s tribunal ruling. But there never has been, despite all the fuss. Further to that, NUI Galway could have asked the National University of Ireland to provide an independent auditor (or Visitor), who could have examined that promotion round and made recommendations on any actions that should be taken by NUI Galway – such as promoting the five women. Why has Jim Browne never done any of this? Is it for the same reason that NUI Galway has sought the pre-trial hearing on May 4th where their lawyers will attempt to have the women’s cases thrown out? Could it be that NUI Galway does not want the facts revealed — the facts that explain how so many men and only one woman were promoted in the ‘08/’09 promotion round?
Jim Browne said something else significant to the Public Accounts Committee. He told them that the ‘08/’09 round was the fourth in a series of promotion rounds undertaken through the same process, and how the previous three rounds had been much better at promoting women. The fourth round has another fact which separates it from those previous three rounds, which he did not mention. It was the only one presided over by Jim Browne.
If you object to the hypocrisy and mendacity of NUI Galway please join us on May 4th at 11.30 to demonstrate outside the High Court. Bus tickets from Galway are available here.
If you can not come perhaps you can make a Donation to help with the bus costs which the campaign are subsidising.
Jim Browne’s answers are given in response to excellent questioning by Catherine Connolly, Indepenednt TD for Galway. West. They occur 32 minutes into the video: Oireachtas video