Joe Mulholland launching last year’s MacGill Summer School
On RTÉ One’s Today With Seán O’Rourke show…
Dr Joe Mulholland, director of the MacGill Summer School in Donegal, joined Mr O’Rourke, while co-leader of the Social Democrats and TD Catherine Murphy was also on the line..
Dr Mulholland was responding to criticism of the predominance of men on the summer school’s panels.
Earlier, Ms Murphy and her co-leader Róisín Shortall said they wouldn’t take part in the event this year unless significant changes are made to the gender-balance of panels across all sessions.
From the interview…
Joe Mulholland: “There’s be at least one woman on every panel I think. So it’s, I suppose, it’s, if you want to say 25% roughly. And I know that this is not enough, of course. And efforts have been made by me, over the years, to balance, to have a better balance, gender balance, but then we have other balances that we look after as well, political balance or socio-economic, political balance and so on. So I have done my best, those who are close to me, who have advised me here in Dublin, on this programme, know that every time I see them, I say ‘let’s think about women’.”
Seán O’Rourke: “Yeah, well, what do you say to the comment made by Catherine Murphy, when you say ‘finding women with the right aptitude’, she finds that very offensive.”
Mulholland: “Well I think that was a wrong, it was, a call last night, fairly late, and pretty jaded, to be honest and that was a totally wrong term to use and I apologise for that and I withdraw it. It wasn’t what I meant. Maybe the right qualifications or whatever but it’s sometimes difficult and, I mean, the amount of women, the number of women who are on the programme does not represent the number of women who have been invited on to the programme but for whatever, for different reasons, just weren’t available. This is towards the end of July.
“It’s an extremely difficult time. Donegal is still quite a remote place. And it makes it difficult for a lot of people.”
O’Rourke: “Joe I’m looking at a tweet here from Sarah McInerney, a colleague here on the Late Debate and also presenter on TV3 or their politics show. She says that ‘Let’s see, MacGill. You could replace Stephen Collins with Geraldine Kennedy; Pat Cox with Catherine Day; Stephen Donnelly with Louise O’Reilly; Phillip Lane with Shannon Donnery – that’s in the Central Bank – David Quinn with Maria Steen and Fintan O’Toole with Justine McCarthy. Now there you are: one, two, three…that’s six.”
Mulholland: “Well, it’s not just a question of replacing those people. I mean, all have been chosen for whatever reasons, but it’s not as simple as that and a lot of time goes into this, as you can imagine of trying to get a programme that’s coherent, cohesive and, above all that, reflects, reflects social and economic and political life in Ireland. And, okay, I have failed obviously from the point of view of the gender balance.”
O’Rourke: “Just on the numbers, Mary O’Regan has done a tot, she’s the news editor in the Sunday Business Post, on your website. Fifty-two speakers of whom 12 are women. Catherine Murphy, are you not running the risk now, of yourself and Róisín Shortall’s withdrawal – that’ll make the balance even worse and it could ruin maybe and if other people do the same thing a really reputable and a fine, I mean it’s been making a contribution for what – 30 years or more?”
Catherine Murphy: “Yeah, Seán, I’ve spoken at the MacGill Summer School and we were very happy to do it in the past but I think that there’s a point where you do have to make a stand on something and I’m quite sure and I know Joe will have put a huge, and his team, will have put a huge amount of effort into the summer school. I don’t disagree with that. But the gender imbalance is so significant and if we’re talking about the future of Ireland and a new Europe, the challenges ahead, that can’t be done without women.
“Because they have been, they have not played a central role in so many ways in the design of the past. Your own wonderful programme last night on RTÉ – in terms of No Country For Women – really demonstrates that that has to change. And women have to be an equal part of this narrative.”
O’Rourke: “And to go back to Joe. Joe Mulholland, is there anything you can do, at this stage, to retrieve the situation?”
Mulholland: “Well I mean this, as I said to somebody else earlier on, this concerns that area of Donegal, Sean, that you know well. I would hate to have to abandon the school altogether, it has crossed my mind, but it would be irresponsible to do that. There are people, we fill all the B&Bs around the place, people depend hugely on that bit of extra money to send kids to school in the autumn and…”
O’Rourke: “I know but I mean, so you wanted to go ahead, but could you not, I mean women can drive to Donegal just as easily as men to participate in this. I’m just wondering if you should throw your net out again, maybe cast it a bit wider and, you know, that imbalance is actually worse than 25%. I mean maybe you could get it up to 35% or 45% by inviting a few more speakers or even going for a few all-female panels.”
Mulholland: “Well, look, Seán, if you’ve a few minutes on your hands maybe, you would come and advise and do a bit of work for me. But I don’t, let me not flippant. I mean there’s certainly no policy of not having women. Last year, I was just looking at last year’s programme. There was one panel on health. One of our key sessions – there was three women out of four, including, indeed Róisín [Shorthall] on it and Susan Mitchell [of the Sunday Business Post] and Rhona Mahony [ Master of the National Maternity Hospital] of Holles Street. So, you know, I mean nobody, nobody commented on that and that’s fine. But there is no certainly no thinking on my mind of: that women are not as good as men. In fact, I think they’re superior in very many ways…”
O’Rourke: “And in fairness to you, Joe, in your long career in RTÉ, you always made sure there was a gender balance in women who got promoted to positions, be they as presenters or correspondents…”
Mulholland: “I tried to…based on ability, Sean. Never as tokenism. And, you know, I didn’t believe in the policy of positive discrimination. Nor would very many women believe in it. But certainly promoting women, where at all possible, and I think there should be far more women in politics and there are not as many as we want and need and in our different institutions – some of which have failed miserably…”
O’Rourke: “I’ve taken my eye off the clock…”
O’Rourke: “I really have to leave it. Look, Joe Mulholland, Dr Joe Mulholland, director of the MacGill Summer School and also my thanks to Catherine Murphy, TD for Kildare North, co-leader of the Social Democrats…”
Listen back in full here
Earlier: School’s Out