Sunday 26 May 2019

'Fallen short of very high standards' - MacGill Summer School apologises after gender-balance row

Joe Mulholland at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties in 2014. Photo: Jason McGarrigle
Joe Mulholland at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties in 2014. Photo: Jason McGarrigle
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

THE MacGill Summer School has extended its programme and increased the number of female participants after it faced criticism over the gender balance of the event.

The event’s organisers were forced to apologise after the draft programme revealed a line up of just 12 women compared with 44 men.

Two of the event’s high profile female speakers, Social Democrats TDs Catherine Murphy and Roisin Shortall withdrew from the influential political talking shop over the gender imbalance. The deputies were the only female TDs billed to speak, out of a cohort of eight.

Ms Shortall said:  “Irish politics has come a long way from the male pale and stale boys club that it traditionally was. High-profile events like MacGill have a responsibility to reflect that change.”

Her colleague Catherine Murphy told the Irish Independent the pair regretted having to withdraw, but it was necessary to discuss the gender issue that had emerged, even if it was uncomfortable.

Ms Murphy said the recent recent Eighth Amendment referendum involved a number of women who could contribute to the event.

Catherine Murphy TD. Photo: Tom Burke
Catherine Murphy TD. Photo: Tom Burke

Last night the director of the school Dr Joe Mulholland admitted that the organisers had “fallen short of the very high standards for which MacGill has become known”.

“Without question, women are under-represented numerically on our panels notwithstanding the strengths and high calibre of those women who accepted our invitation to contribute,” he said in a statement.

“This is something we very much regret. We are determined, in the short period remaining before MacGill 2018 commences, to do all that we can to redress this imbalance.

“To this end, we are working progressively to include in the programme two new sessions.

"One will focus on the recent referendum on Repeal of the 8th Amendment. The other session will be tasked with cutting to the very heart of why MacGill and other organisations and public forums in Ireland have not embraced effectively gender balancing.

"To achieve this we need help and I would ask our audiences and particularly women to assist us in transforming MacGill 2018 by participating in the debates in Glenties which will help establish new foundations in our ongoing pursuit of building a better Ireland in the years ahead.”

The annual current affairs talking shop which takes place in Glenties, Co Donegal every July will this year examine topics around the theme “The Future of Ireland in Europe: The challenges ahead?”.

Among the females billed to speak are Vicky Phelan, whose court challenge revealed the CervicalCheck scandal, Independent News and Media’s Group Business Editor, Dearbhail McDonald, and RTÉ’s Ingrid Miley.

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