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:  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;, 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

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:

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!


Is NUI Galway deliberately hiding its re-application to Athena SWAN to prevent objections?

On the heels of the successful #SolidariTEA held last week by NUI Galway staff and students in support of the four female lecturers who have taken their battle for promotion to the High Court, we thought an update on the latest round of Athena SWAN applications was warranted.
The word around the university is that NUI Galway submitted a third application for the award by the Nov. 30th deadline. If so, this means NUI Galway took the action despite Micheline’s Open Letter last month and its insistence that the university address the outstanding gender discrimination from the 2008/2009 promotion round before applying again for the award, which recognises academic institutions for their commitment to gender equality. At least a Bronze level is required in order to be eligible to receive research funding from 2019 on.
NUI Galway’s action regarding the application is still unclear because there has been no official statement and the application has not been posted on the university website, as it is supposed to be. This is in contrast to Maynooth University, which not only announced on its website on Dec. 1st, the day after the closing date, that it had resubmitted an application for the award but also posted a copy of its application. Maynooth and NUI Galway are the only universities in Ireland yet to receive Bronze awards. However, this round constitutes Maynooth’s second attempt, not its third as in the case of NUI Galway. Every other Irish university, except NUI Galway, received a Bronze-level award on their second attempt.

Maynooth’s application includes some impressive facts, many of which show up NUI Galway. For instance:

  1. The percentage of professors at Maynooth University who are women has increased to 31%  This is the second-highest in the sector. At NUI Galway, just 13% of professors are female — the lowest in the sector.
  2. Based on feedback from its 2015 application, Maynooth University conducted a ‘culture’ survey  that included 106 survey questions and space for detailed comments. As far as we know, NUI Galway has undertaken no survey of its staff for its third application.
The campaign suspects that NUI Galway is deliberately avoiding letting anyone know about its Athena SWAN application in order to prevent objections. This would not be without precedent: NUI Galway posted its second application only after it was turned down. Until the rejection, the university had posted an incomplete draft.

Our campaign will find out the date that objections must be submitted by and will let you know. It looks like one objection could be NUI Galway’s failure to make its application available. Watch this space!

Today’s #solidariTEA to support the women lecturers a huge success!!

sdrToday’s #solidariTEA event at NUI Galway supporting the women taking court cases had over 300 participants, we hear. It was organised by the University Women’s Network along with the Students Union, Fem Soc, Gender Arc and others. It ran from 10am to noon in the large lobby of the Orbsen Building. Participants brought cakes and other goodies.

Micheline was there but it had nothing to do with this campaign and we did not promote it. That was deliberate as Jim Browne has taken to saying the women have little support; that it’s just Micheline and a few others making a fuss. Well this event proved just how wrong he is! And their support is not just in NUI Galway. Other universities also held events at the same time. There was even one in the Oireachtas this morning with TDs and senators there! This tweet was sent by Ivana Bacik, Labour senator. As Catherine


Martin TD for the Green Party who also tweeted pointed out, it was a cross party event.

Check out #solidariTEA on twitter. There are tweets with pictures of others who joined the event, tea and cake in hand, from Irish universities, UL, UCD, TCD, DCU, plus the Royal College of Surgeons and abroad from The Hague, London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and even Hong Kong, San Francisco and Santiago in Chile! Well done the organisers. Here is another tweet, this one from two of the NUIG students who supported the event.

student tweet


And here is the article in tomorrow’s Irish Times.


NUI Galway response to Open Letter fails to refute anything Micheline wrote!

NUI Galway’s response in the media to Micheline’s Open Letter is very interesting and worth studying carefully. Galway Bay FM and the Connacht Tribune both reported that NUI Galway stated there is ‘no connection whatsoever’ between their unsuccessful applications and the legal cases of four colleagues, and that NUI Galway has complied in full with the decision relating to Dr Sheehy Skeffington, but it does not provide a basis to promote any other individual. But Micheline did not actually make either claim in her Open Letter (have a look). She simply told the committee that NUI Galway should not reapply for the Athena SWAN award without addressing the known gender discrimination resulting from the curropt 2008/09 promotion round and if they were to apply without doing this, then NUI Galway should be turned down again by Athena SWAN and that this would lead to the loss of government research grant funding.

In fact, the press reports include no rebuttal by NUI Galway of anything Micheline actually wrote in her Open Letter. There is no denial that her Equality Tribunal ruling highlighted gender discrimination affecting other women shortlisted in the 2008/09 promotion round. There is also no denial that there was further gender discrimination which was not mentioned in the ruling. And there is no denial that any such gender discrimination should be dealt with before applying again for the Athena SWAN award.

Also both things NUI Galway refute could not, in fact, have happened. Athena SWAN could not have turned down NUI Galway for the Bronze award because of any legal cases as they have not been decided yet. But Athena SWAN must refuse NUI Galway the Bronze award if the university is not dealing with known gender discrimination.

Similarly, the Equality Tribunal ruling could not have required NUI Galway to promote anyone other than the individual taking the case. That was outside of its remit and would have led to the ruling being challenged by NUI Galway.  But the Equality Tribunal could highlight gender discrimination against other women involved in that round in justifying its ruling in favour of Micheline, which is what it did. The Equality Tribunal ruling also deliberately confines itself to examples of gender discrimination that it would be difficult to challenge as part of an appeal by NUI Galway and so omits examples such as the fast tracking of three men that we have revealed. NUI Galway management know about these other instances as they attended the Equality Tribunal hearing held behind closed doors. Their team included someone who is now on the Athena SWAN committee preparing NUI Galway’s application. That is something else NUI Galway did not refute.



Micheline’s open letter published today in Galway’s City Tribune

Micheline’s open letter was published today in the Galway City Tribune. It’s a long letter which they published in full. It’s also appeared on several sites on line. Please help by circulating it using emails or social media.

Everyone will now come to understand that it’s management’s intransigence which is threatening NUI Galway’s research funding, not the five women we support, and management are going to have to give in and finally correct the gender discrimination.

We hear it’s just three men in management who are holding out and it’s now simply about saving face. They said it could not be done, then they said this was absolutely their final offer. But now they have to recognise how big this issue has become – because of their intransigence. At the recent University Women’s Network AGM, those attending sat at tables, each with a moderator. Each table was asked to list the issues in NUI Galway they thought important for the Network to engage with. Every single table put Justice for the Five Women Lecturers as the most important!

It’s OK guy’s, we’re all wrong sometimes. It’s human. Put the gender discrimination right and we can all move!


Here’s a photo of the letter in the Galway City Tribune, who we’d like to thank whole heartedly. They have stuck with this issue through thick and thin, fearlessly, even though the university press office stooped inviting them to press events and sending them press releases because of it.  Buy the Galway City Tribune!