Garda accountability – has anything changed?

Garda accountability – has anything changed?

 

OPINION

Garda accountability – has anything changed? 

lorcan garda
olivia moore

22nd February 2021

 

Accountability has been described as “the hallmark of modern democratic governance”. It creates a sense of trust and confidence among the public, promotes legitimacy, and improves state performance. Without it, the public is at the mercy of unchecked exercises of power. Failing accountability within An Garda Síochána has become a reoccurring theme highlighted by the recent tragic death of George Nkencho. The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), charged with dealing with public complaints regarding Garda conduct, has recently been criticised by Mr Nkencho’s family, who label their investigation as “flawed” and “defective”. As such, they have called for a full public inquiry into his shooting. Would such measures be necessary in an accountability system that is fit for purpose? The unfortunate shortcomings of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which attempted to overhaul police accountability in Ireland, has created an environment in which accountability is discouraged.

 

The 2005 Act’s inadequacy is rooted in the restructuring of the Garda chain of command. Under this Act, the Garda Commissioner retained control over the force but was made reportable to the Minister for Justice in an attempt to improve accountability. This centralised control over the Gardaí is counterproductive as it creates a politicised form of governance over the police, where malpractice allegations reflect poorly on the government. As such, in an effort to protect their reputation, ministers have frequently opted to deal with matters internally rather than in a transparent, public manner. In an effort to remedy this situation, a new Garda Síochána Board is to be established to act as a barrier between the Minister for Justice and Garda Commissioner – to which the Commissioner will be made accountable. However, its impact will be limited, as the Commissioner will still be required to keep the Minister informed on any significant policing matters.

 

Other attempts within the 2005 Act to improve accountability can be seen in the establishment of a number of “independent” bodies. The Policing Authority, established as a Garda oversight body in 2016, noted that “having multiple oversight bodies with overlapping functions has led to ambiguity surrounding oversight responsibility”. One such body, overlapping with the Policing Authority, is the Garda Síochána Inspectorate. The Inspectorate was formed under the 2005 Act to produce regular reports on the functioning of the police to be put before the Dáil. Crucially, though, to the detriment of report reliability, the Minister for Justice may exclude any information from a report in the interest of national security. This national security “trump card” is problematic and open to abuse. Furthermore, these reports are not permitted to express any opinions on a policy from the government, severely limiting the Inspectorate’s ability to act independently.

 

It was also under the 2005 Act that the controversial GSOC, the body charged with the Nchenko case, was established, acting as a body to which individuals could lodge complaints about police misconduct. Complaints may be resolved informally, investigated by the Gardaí or else investigated by GSOC themselves. GSOC’s ability to carry out quality investigations are limited due to underfunding, forcing them to frequently refer matters to the Gardaí to deal with internally due to lack of staff. However, since being authorised the addition of 42 new staff in 2018, investigation figures have barely improved. In 2019, 1,153 complaints made to GSOC were admitted for investigation. 35% of these investigations were carried out by the Gardaí unsupervised (down from 42% in 2017). While it should be noted that some of these complaints may be unfounded, of the 1,153 made only 96 resulted in some form of sanction. Sanctions are imposed by the Garda Commissioner and may consist of advice being given to the officer, a warning, a caution, reduction in pay, a fine, or a reprimand. The two most common sanctions used were a reduction in pay and advice. Only 5 of these sanctions were reprimands which may consists of a suspension. This means that only 8.32% of investigated complaints resulted in a sanction and 0.43% resulting in a reprimand. Such low sanction figures may be influenced by the fact that if an investigation finds evidence of a “potential” breach, it is the Garda Síochána that makes a decision on whether or not there has been “actual” breach. If the infringement is serious enough, GSOC may send the case directly to the DPP. These sanction figures really hammer home the idea that if a Garda breaks the rules, he or she will likely get away with it. Furthermore, when sanctions are imposed, the form they take does little to prevent further abuses due to a lack of any retraining dimension.

 

“The unfortunate shortcomings of the Garda Síochána Act 2005, which attempted to overhaul police accountability in Ireland, has created an environment in which accountability is discouraged.”

 

The Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland (COFPI) 2018 report recognised the issues mentioned and proposed solutions – which, as of yet, have still not been adopted. Notably, the report recommends the establishment of the Independent Office of the Police Ombudsman to supersede GSOC. The report stresses that this office needs to be fully independent from the Gardaí, and fully funded, to prevent instances of “Gardaí investigating Gardaí”. Furthermore, it recommends that the Policing Authority and the Garda Inspectorate be superseded by a new Policing and Community Safety Oversight Commission to provide further accountability in the delivery of professional policing, coupled with an increased emphasis placed on human rights in the delivery of this policing.

 

My fear is that if these reforms are adopted by the government and put into legislation, it will be in a watered-down format and inadequately resourced. Despite consistent issues with the Garda conduct, the numerous oversight bodies that are in place remain underfunded and statutorily ill-equipped to deal with Garda misconduct. Such failures should not be taken lightly. Failing to hold Gardaí accountable is a slippery slope. No one should be above the law – and even more, higher moral standards should be held by those who seek to enforce the law. This is not only important for the cultivation and maintenance of justice, but because failing accountability procedures delegitimises the police in the eyes of the public, resulting in lower levels of compliance. As such, it is not only the public who are negatively impacted by failing accountability, but the Gardaí themselves. To achieve Ireland’s fundamental human rights obligations required by various international treaties and Article 40 of our Constitution, Garda accountability needs to be reformed, fast, with a clear human rights approach at the forefront of such reform. The government should not continue to wait around until there is another breach serious enough to kick them into action.

 

 

Featured photo by Sean MacEntee on Flickr

 

Venturing into non-English TV shows and movies

Venturing into non-English TV shows and movies

 

ARTS + CULTURE

Venturing into non-English TV shows and movies

a selection of movie and tv posters
olivia moore

21st February 2021

 

Parasite director, Bong Joon-ho, while accepting his Golden Globe, commented that “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Hopefully, this had an impact on audiences’ willingness to venture into non-English language film and television during the lockdown period, while various streaming platforms such as Mubi and the Criterion Channel gained popularity with the closure of cinemas. According to the European Commission Media, 56% of film viewers said they streamed films from free websites while 68% said they downloaded free files to store on personal drives, so it is clear that streaming and online media viewing are key to viewership in 2021. The last theatre showings before the world changed did include features such as Lulu Wang’s The Farewell, a film in majority Mandarin Chinese, which gained popularity, but arguably there has still not been enough exploration of non-English language media in this era when it is more accessible than ever.

 

Now, with all this extra time, is surely the ideal opportunity to avail of the Criterion Collection (provided one has a VPN), to explore classic mainstays of ‘foreign film’ -whatever that means in a global world- like the works of Andrei Tarkovsky. While it may be perceived as mind-bending and baffling by some, Tarkovsky’s infamous Stalker’s existentialism is quite apt for the nature of these strange times, and its arguably quite hopeful ending provides a sense of solidarity and human resilience. Perhaps a lesson from the introspective nature of the Soviet filmmaker is that we all have a somewhat common psyche, which is surely essential to note at this time. If the genre is not your cup of tea, however, you can achieve more of a cinematic hug, still with a profound message on life, in the films of Yasujirō Ozu. Around in the 1950s, following a very dark period for Japan as a result of the devastating atom bombs dropped on two of its cities, Ozu meditated, in beautiful colours and compositions, on family, growing up, and the changing nature of the zeitgeist. With themes this universal, perhaps cultural differences are not as overt as some may think, and subtitles are not such a barrier overall. (It is important to note that dubbing is always an option for the visually-impaired, also.)

 

However, of course the price of the VPN and Criterion Channel itself is needed for that. As students, why not turn to Mubi, which is free for many studying arts and humanities with the use of university login details, and arguably has an even better availability of smaller and more international directors than Criterion. All of Federico Fellini’s films are on there currently, in excellent quality, which is such a gift to any young film fan. That is merely the beginning though, as the website has a large catalogue that changes once a month to reveal more hidden gem documentaries, shorts and feature films, by directors young and old from all over the world. Film can be both education and entertainment, and why not open the scope for that by exploring streaming services like this that push international classics and lesser-known works to their home pages?

 

“The need for subtitles most certainly does not get in the way when the writing is so good, and it is such a shame for audiences to miss out on such quality for that reason.”

 

In fairness though, some of us simply want to binge-watch shows, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Anyone who was a teen around 2016 may remember the sudden popularity of the Norwegian Skins-style show, Skam, amongst young audiences in the UK and Ireland. People were finding any links they could get their hands on to watch the show, proving that the “1-inch-tall barrier” is not truly standing in the way of audiences being entertained. The nature of Skam, as a piece that young people in the 2010’s could truly identify with, and it’s huge popularity, said something about how sometimes opening audiences up to international programmes provides what our own TV is lacking, which can be crucial for tales of racial equality and LGBTQ+ acceptance. Going off of this point, one to watch right now on Netflix is the Turkish miniseries Ethos, which follows multiple men, but majority women, on their journeys through daily life in a country that is changing religiously, culturally and economically all the time. Dealing with topics such as cerebral palsy, the nuclear family structure, mental health and the relationship between cannabis and Islam, among many, many others, the programme is both incredibly eye-opening and somehow universally identifiable. The need for subtitles most certainly does not get in the way when the writing is so good, and it is such a shame for audiences to miss out on such quality for that reason.

 

Despite Parasite’s ground-breaking Oscar win, we are still not consuming enough non-English language media, and there is absolutely both an educational and entertaining benefit to it. Hopefully, articles like this will soon not have to be written, as the concept of ‘film/television’ verses ‘foreign film/television’ will hopefully be broken-down, aided by some of the streaming platforms mentioned here. Also, with any hope, life will be back to normal after vaccinations, and we can return to cinemas like the IFI in Dublin which often show an array of non-English-language work. The Light House Cinema is also home to some of Ireland’s most prestigious annual international film festivals, including the AUDI Dublin International Film festival, The Gaze Film Festival and the Japanese Film Festival. For now, though, in a time when media is one of the only accessible and safe forms of entertainment, why should we shut ourselves off from 90% of it?

 

 

Featured photos by Google and IMDB

 

The issue of Chinese Uighur camps

The issue of Chinese Uighur camps

 

HUMANITARIAN

The issue of Chinese Uighur camps

uighur protest in china
Emily Murphy

20th February 2021

 

On 2 February, the BBC released an article which consisted of numerous testimonies of alleged systemic rape of Uighur women in Chinas ‘re-education’ camps. The article also included reports of alleged beatings at the hands of prison guards as well as multiple forms of electrocution endured by detainees. Despite the atrocities detailed in the report, there seems to be very little backlash at all, anywhere in the world, and only a few days later, the news seems to have slipped into the collective subconscious. Reports like these are not new, we have been hearing rumours since late 2018, so why has nothing been done? Why does no one seem to care?

 

The Uighur are a Muslim Turkic minority based primarily in the Xinjiang, a region in northwestern China, that borders Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia and five other countries. It is an autonomous region, which means, in theory, that it has some self-governance powers. However in reality the area is faced with major restrictions from China. Despite being briefly independent in the early 20th-century, the region has been under the control of the Chinese communist party since 1949.

 

There have been reports of China’s suppression of Uighur rights and rumours of growing tensions since 2013. The region that the Uighurs inhabit is the home to numerous development projects which have brought with them great economic prosperity. Xinjiang has therefore become very attractive to young, well-educated Han Chinese who migrate from the eastern regions. These economic migrants have become prosperous in Xinjiang, and rumours that they are given preferential treatment when applying for jobs has fueled resentment among the two groups. These tensions gave rise to increased support for anti-imperialism, pro-separatist movements. Under the guise of restoring peace and quashing the ‘terrorist’ movement, the Chinese government began imposing strict regulations and infringing on Uighur rights. In 2017, the government passed laws forbidding women from wearing veils or face coverings, men from growing beards, and began the demolition of dozens of mosques. The Chinese government also began implementing “residential surveillance” in many areas of Xinjiang as well as increasing the presence of armed guards and mandatory checkpoints.

 

Since 2017, more than 85 camps housing at least one million Uighurs have been discovered in the autonomous zone. China originally denied the existence of the camps however they later acknowledged them as “re-education centres” when images of camps with watchtowers and barbed wire fences emerged. This was met with mixed responses. The U.N. Human Rights Council penned a letter in which 22 countries condemned the Chinese leadership and the “large-scale arbitrary detention of Uighurs”. Four days later 37 countries, many of whom are Muslim majority defended China’s “achievements in the field of human rights” and their dedication to protecting the nation from “terrorism, separatism and religious extremism”. In February 2019, President Xi Jinping stated that the Chinese Communist Party should have absolute control over the legal system. The government then legalised ‘arbitrary and secret detention’ and created new legislation which would exempt police from any legal responsibilities for damage that may be caused to the private property or interests of individuals and organizations while they carry out duties.

 

Tursunay Ziawudun, the key interviewee in a BBC article describes some of the brutal acts inflicted on her and other inmates during the nine months she spent in the camp. It is incredibly rare to acquire a first-hand account from a former staff member or detainee, and because there is strict security surrounding the camps it is almost impossible to completely confirm the allegations made, however, the account given by Ziawudun is extremely similar to accounts given by other former detainees. Details given in her testimony are corroborated by immigration records and travel documents and her description of the camp in Xinyuan county match analysed satellite imagery. In her interview with the BBC, she stated that detainees were forced to watch propaganda programmes, forcibly injected with a “vaccine” which brought on numbness and nausea every 15 days and implanted with IUDs against their will. Later in her interview, Ziawudun stated that she had been gang-raped on three occasions and on one occasion officers took her to a room without surveillance and tortured her by pushing an electric stick inside her genital tract and electrocuting her.

 

“It is incredibly rare to acquire a first-hand account from a former staff member or detainee, and because there is strict security surrounding the camps it is almost impossible to completely confirm the allegations made”

 

Qelbinur Sedik, an Uzbek woman from Xinjiang, a former language teacher in the camp who has publicly stated since fleeing China that she was informed by a female police officer in the camp that the rape in the camp had become a culture. The officer also told her that it was commonly gang rape and electrocution. Sedik testified to the Uighur Human Rights Project that screams were often heard echoing through the buildings, and that she was aware of four forms of electric shock that were used. These included “the chair, the glove, the helmet and anal rape with a stick”. According to the Associated Press women in the camps were forcibly sterilised allegations the Chinese government have stated are “completely unfounded”. An anonymous camp guard who spoke to the BBC said that food deprivation and beatings were administered as punishment for failure to memorise book passages or patriotic songs.

 

On his last day as president, Donald Trump’s secretary of state Mike Pompeo released the statement “I believe this genocide is ongoing, and that we are witnessing the systemic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state”. The current Biden administration has echoed this statement. The UK and Australian government ministers have issued calls to action with MP Nus Ghani stating “These horrifying stories add to the huge and growing body of evidence detailing atrocities perpetrated by the Chinese authorities in Xinjiang – atrocities which may even be genocidal.” In January, Canada and Britain announced a ban on goods which they suspect were made using forced labour in Xinjiang. The UK has also revoked the broadcasting licence of CGTN, a Chinese state-owned broadcaster. Ofcom, the UK regulator, has said that this decision was reached because the corporation was controlled by the Chinese communist party. The Chinese government have responded by banning BBC World News both in retaliation and as a result of the networks reporting on Covid-19 and the Uighur genocide.

 

We have been aware in one form or another of the Chinese Communist party’s treatment of Uighurs since at least 2014, it is high time that we do something to end this atrocity. It is baffling to me that no government has intervened prior to the latest allegations. We cannot allow this recent revelation to disappear from our minds. If we do, the abuse and torture will only continue.

 

 

 

Featured photo by Malcolm Brown on Flickr

 

Polish abortion ban

Polish abortion ban

 

WOMEN

Polish abortion ban

sign that says 'big pharama'
olivia moore

18th February 2021

 

2020 saw Poland, an already restrictive country with regards to reproductive rights, introduce a further ban on abortion. In October, the Constitutional Tribunal, the constitutional court of Poland, ruled that abortion is acceptable only in cases of rape, incest or when the mother’s life may be in danger. The PiS (translating to the Law and Justice Party), a national conservative and right-wing populist political party, came into power in 2015 and have repeatedly attacked women’s rights organisations through raids, refusal of funding and mischaracterisation of their work as dangerous. They stated that abortion due to foetal defects was not compatible with the Polish constitution. In Poland, a country with a population of 38 million, there is reportedly less than 2000 legal abortions a year. However, women’s organisations estimate that up to 200,000 terminations occur either illegally or abroad. Abortion Dream Team is an organisation that aims to raise awareness of the pharmacological method of abortion and to promote a positive message about abortion, based on the real experiences of those who have had abortions and those who support them. Natalia, who is an activist for Abortion Dream Team says that since the new restrictions were announced, their phones have not stopped ringing. While Poland is a democratic country, it is heavily influenced by the Catholic Church, and has the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe.

 

The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic described it as “a sad day for women’s rights” and stated that the ruling means “underground/abroad abortions for those who can afford, and even greater ordeal for all others”.

 

“Polish women have had to deal with limited access to sexual and reproductive health information for many years now, including an effort to criminalize sexual education while equating homosexuality with paedophilia, as recently as early 2020.”

 

The ruling, understandably, invoked rage from the public, with more than 400,000 people protesting across the country despite the coronavirus pandemic. The head of the European People’s party, Donald Tusk, declared: “Throwing the topic of abortion and a ruling by a pseudo-court into the middle of a raging pandemic is more than cynical”.

 

Many of the protests were led by Women’s Strike, an organisation that works towards rejecting the decades of economic inequality, criminalization and policing, racial and sexual violence, and endless global war and terrorism. Amnesty International reported that the Polish authorities responded to peaceful protests with excessive use of force, including pepper spray, the criminalization of peaceful protesters, and incitement of violence against protesters by public officials.

 

The ruling had a three-month delay as a result of the volume of protests that took place in October, but was eventually enforced in late January despite the lack of support from the public. This sparked three consecutive days of protests across Poland. Protestors in Warsaw wore green handkerchiefs representing the symbol of abortion rights in Argentina where abortion had been legalized just a month earlier. Demonstrators waved Polish and rainbow flags, along with the red lightning symbol that is used by Women’s Strike. Euronews held an interview with Bartlomiej Wroblewski, a parliamentarian, member of the PiS and a supporter of the new ruling on abortion. He argued that “it’s a universal right that protects all human beings, from the beginning to the end of life. People who are ill or disabled have the same right to live as healthy people like us do”. One of Warsaw Churches’ leading priests, Father Roman Trzcinski talks of the “civilisation of death that is spreading throughout the world through atheistic movements,” and claims that people are being manipulated by the protests.

 

Polish women have had to deal with limited access to sexual and reproductive health information for many years now, including an effort to criminalize sexual education while equating homosexuality with paedophilia, as recently as early 2020. Both bills concerning the near ban on abortion were citizens initiatives. The director of Amnesty International Poland, Draginja Nadazdin said that “Attempting to pass these recklessly retrogressive laws at any time would be shameful, but to rush them through under the cover of the COVID-19 crisis is unconscionable”. Polish Human Rights activists are furious over the new ruling and promise to seek legal action in the Polish Courts.

 

 

Featured photo by Zuza Gałczyńska on Unsplash

 

The pharmaceutical industry – a wasted chance at redemption?

The pharmaceutical industry – a wasted chance at redemption?

 

HUMANITARIAN

The pharmaceutical industry – a wasted chance at redemption?

sign that says 'big pharama'
olivia moore

17th February 2021

 

Like any business, pharmaceutical companies need to make a profit in order to grow, succeed, and compete in their industry. However, due to the nature of their business, pharmaceutical companies are commonly demonised and portrayed as modern-day villains that use and manipulate illness to make a profit. There was hope when such companies began manufacturing covid-19 vaccines that they would be able to salvage their image through good-natured actions. There was even hope that such companies may use the vaccine as a springboard to tighten the gap on global healthcare inequality. But, has this opportunity been wasted?

 

‘Big Pharma’ has a dire public image, and it is understandable why. In 2015, Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price of its HIV treatment medication from $13.50 to $750 per pill in America. Another common source of outrage in America is the cost of insulin, where some are forced to choose between managing their diabetes or feeding their family. There are countless more examples of medication being sold at extortionate prices, making it practically impossible for those in impecunious situations to overcome treatable diseases. These actions have caused severe distrust from the public, with many believing in what is known as the ‘Big Pharma conspiracy theory.’ This conspiracy encompasses a belief that pharmaceutical companies ‘operate for nefarious purpose and against the public good by withholding treatments for cancer and other diseases in order to maximise their profits.’ Although a cynical and unfounded theory, it all stems from the actions taken by pharmaceutical companies to date.

 

Given the severe global impact of covid-19, many had hoped that pharmaceutical companies would act with benevolence by putting their profit-earning nature aside temporarily, which would in turn improve their public image. However, this hope has proven to be overly optimistic. BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna have opted for a for-profit model during the pandemic. Pfizer in particular expects €12.5bn in covid vaccine revenue this year. They do not expect the profits to stop here however, with Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chief executive, stating that it was an ‘increasingly probable scenario’ that people will require boosters, or different vaccine formulations to keep up with new variants of the virus. He then added, with perhaps a hint of hopefulness, that this would result in a ‘durable’ revenue stream.

 

It is morally questionable at the very least to earn, and hope to continuously earn, such a high profit in critical times like these. We have placed a higher burden on pharmaceutical companies to act more altruistic in covid-19 times than we have on other industries. However, this is not an unfair expectation and the reasoning behind this is simple: the vaccine is not an optional purchase. You would not be in danger should you be unable to afford that new fiction book from Amazon or those new Levi jeans that just got released. You will however live in fear for your health, and ultimately your survival, if you happen to live in a poorer nation which does not have the means to purchase this vaccine, as well as an indefinite amount of boosters and newer vaccines. As encapsulated by Stephen Lewis, former United Nations envoy, ‘drug companies are deciding whether people live or die.’

 

“It is morally questionable at the very least to earn, and hope to continuously earn, such a high profit in critical times like these.”

 

It is important to recognise that some pharmaceutical companies have opted to be not-for-profit for the duration of the pandemic, specifically Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. This is definitely admirable and the beneficial impact this will have in poorer nations must not be overlooked. However, as the vaccines produced by these companies have a lower efficacy rate and are therefore are the less popular choice, it should be expected that this charitability will be overshadowed by the actions of other more rapacious companies.

 

It is a common perception that being ruthless is the key to having a successful business, and the pharmaceutical industry unfortunately serves to further prove this point. Although this may be how many businesses operate, the simple fact is we expect more compassion and humanity coming from an industry that deals with life or death situations. The way in which pharmaceutical companies operate essentially promotes and encourages the devastating effects that wealth inequality has on the world.

 

Essentially, the pharmaceutical industry has not redeemed its image during this pandemic, but instead has regretfully cemented its image in the public’s eye as being unmerciful and opportunistic.

 

 

Featured photo by Bart Heird on Flickr

 

It’s about time: Trinity to elect first female provost

It’s about time: Trinity to elect first female provost

 

OPINION + WOMEN

It’s about time: Trinity to elect first female provost

trinity college dublin entrance
olivia moore

16th February 2021

 

Over a century ago, former provost of Trinity College Dublin, George Salmon, reputedly uttered his infamous words: “Over my dead body will women enter this college.” And yet on Friday 5th February 2021, the very same university confirmed that the next Provost of Trinity College Dublin will be a woman, for the first time in its 429-year history since its establishment in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I.

 

Announced was an all-female shortlist of three senior academics – Linda Doyle, Professor of Engineering and the Arts and former Dean of Research; Linda Horgan, Professor of Ecumenics and former vice-provost; and Jane Ohlmeyer, prominent historian and Trinity’s first Vice-President for Global Relations. Professor Ohlmeyer was, in fact, the only female candidate when Professor Patrick Prendergast was elected Provost in 2011. On the line is a ten-year position, complemented by a respectable €200,000-a-year salary, to begin when Professor Prendergast competes his own term on July 31st. To achieve this reward, however, candidates must first engage in what has been described as a “papal-style election process”, involving engagement with multiple hustings events before 800 full-time academic staff vote on April 10th.

 

But apart from the novelty of it being the first-ever provost-election to take place online, Susan Parkes identifies the election of a woman as provost as the real milestone moment for the university. Originally, they were not regarded as equal members of the university upon first admission: “There was no residence on campus for women. They had to be off campus by 6pm and weren’t allowed to dine in the dining hall. It continued as a male, residential community for many years.”

 

“To achieve this reward, however, candidates must first engage in what has been described as a “papal-style election process”, involving engagement with multiple hustings events before 800 full-time academic staff vote on April 10th.”

 

Not until the late 1960s were female students given rooms on campus for the first time, and allowed to join debating societies and became eligible to be elected as fellows and scholars. A prime example is our very own Mary Robinson, who was elected president in 1990, was auditor of the college’s law society and became Reed Professor of Law there too. But, as Parkes asserts, “[n]owadays, there are plenty of women in leadership positions in the university. They are more than ready for it. If this happened 10 years ago, it would have been bigger news… it’s taken a long time.”

 

In fact, several other colleges beat Trinity to it, with a number of female heads presiding over institutes of technology in recent years, and Kerstin Mey of the University of Limerick becoming the first woman to head an Irish university last summer. However, one certainty arising from Trinity’s jumping aboard, says Ms Parkes, is that it will be the first time a female is appointed to a top role in a traditional Irish university on a permanent basis new female provost.

 

Of course, our work is not yet done. The gender balance across all senior roles in Irish academia has been the subject of criticism for a long time now. A 2018 report on higher education found that while women made up half of the staff at third level, they held only a quarter of the professor jobs. However, it must be noted that at this time no woman had ever held the position of university president, and only two had been appointed to lead an institute of technology. Just look how much ground has been broken in the meantime.

 

It cannot be doubted that the election of a woman provost will absolutely be a “boost for women academics,” according to Parkes. “To think it’s really not that long ago women weren’t even allowed in the university common room… I sometimes say to female students to this day, be sure to get your photo beside the statue of George Salmon, just to shows how far we’ve come.”

 

 

Photo by Stephen Bergin on Unsplash