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NUI Galway accused of gender ‘spin’



NUI Galway has been accused of ‘deliberately misinforming’ staff in relation gender equality issues at the university.

Senior lecturer, Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, took the unusual step on Wednesday to email around 4,000 staff members over her concerns that NUIG was engaged in public relations ‘spin’ on gender equality issues.

Her critique, which raised eyebrows among staff and caused embarrassment to management, was sent in the same week the new task force on gender equality at NUIG held its first meeting on campus.

NUIG says it is committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all staff, irrespective of gender. The taskforce was given a broad remit by the university’s Governing Authority to consider the present gender mix among staff, including academic and support staff, and to advise the university what measures it should take to develop gender equality and over what timescale.

The first meeting of the taskforce took place Tuesday, the day before Ms Sheehy Skeffington issued an email to staff in which she confirmed that five female lecturers at the university will be submitting papers to the High Court over claims they were overlooked for promotion on grounds of gender.

Ms Sheehy Skeffington, who won a landmark Equality Tribunal discrimination case against NUIG last year, says she contacted staff in response to a recent document on gender equality that was circulated by management.

The document, she says, “deliberately misinforms concerning the case being taken by the five female lecturers who like me were shortlisted but not promoted to senior lecturer in 2009.”

She argues that the background time line in the document “is set out to imply they are only taking a case concerning the 2013/2014 round while the management know full well that the women’s principal intention is to contest the 2008/2009 round where the gender discrimination is at its worst.”

She adds: “The other piece of ‘spin’ in their gender equality document is the comparison of the percentage women promoted in 2009 with those in 2014 to show how NUIG have put things right, when all they have managed to do is return the percentage to what it had been prior to 2009.”

She says she accepts that, following her equality case, and the unwelcome publicity it has generated, NUIG, “now genuinely wants to be seen to be attempting to put right the gender discrimination” at the university.

“My problem with what the management are now doing, such as setting up the taskforce, is that I have seen it all before. I was on the Equality Committee set up by NUIG that made recommendations in 1990, and there have been recommendations made since, including in the reports commissioned in response to the 2008/20099 results. Despite all these recommendations we still have the lowest number of female academics in senior posts of any Irish university,” she says.

In a statement, NUIG said: “The university circulated an internal message to all staff earlier this week to update on progress in implementing its plans to achieve gender equality. The university is satisfied that the gender equality fact sheet issued by the university is accurate. The university noted the response from Micheline Sheehy Skeffington.”

The new taskforce that met on Tuesday has 16 members in total – eight external and eight internal – with a wide spectrum of expertise and different perspectives. Eleven of the 16 members are female, and a number of members are leading experts in the fields of equality and diversity.

“The taskforce will establish its own terms of reference and carry out its work independently of the university in an open and transparent manner,” according to NUIG.

It will report periodically to the Governing Authority, and will produce a report of its recommendations by no later than Spring 2016. Its next meeting is in May.

Connacht Tribune

West has lower cancer survival rates than rest



Significant state investment is required to address ‘shocking’ inequalities that leave cancer patients in the West at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that survival rates for breast, lung and colorectal cancers than the national average, and with the most deprived quintile of the population, the West’s residents faced poorer outcomes from a cancer diagnosis.

For breast cancer patients, the five-year survival rate was 80% in the West versus 85% nationally; for lung cancer patients it was 16.7% in the west against a 19.5% national survival rate; and in the West’s colorectal cancer patients, there was a 62.6% survival rate where the national average was 63.1%.

These startling statistics were provided in answer to a question from Ballinasloe-based Cllr Evelyn Parsons (Ind) who said it was yet another reminder that cancer treatment infrastructure in the West was in dire need of improvement.

“The situation is pretty stark. In the Western Regional Health Forum area, we have the highest incidence of deprivation and the highest health inequalities because of that – we have the highest incidences of cancer nationally because of that,” said Cllr Parsons, who is also a general practitioner.

In details provided by CEO of Saolta Health Care Group, which operates Galway’s hospitals, it was stated that a number of factors were impacting on patient outcomes.

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Connacht Tribune

Marathon Man plans to call a halt – but not before he hits 160 races



Loughrea’s Marathon Man Jarlath Fitzgerald.

On the eve of completing his 150th marathon, an odyssey that has taken him across 53 countries, Loughrea’s Marathon Man has announced that he is planning to hang up his running shoes.

But not before Jarlath Fitzgerald completes another ten races, making it 160 marathons on the occasion of his 60th birthday.

“I want to draw the line in 2026. I turn 57 in October and when I reach 60 it’s the finishing line. The longer races are taking it out of me. I did 20 miles there two weeks ago and didn’t feel good. It’s getting harder,” he reveals.

“I’ve arthritis in both hips and there’s wear and tear in the knees.”

We speak as he is about to head out for a run before his shift in Supervalu Loughrea. Despite his physical complaints, he still clocks up 30 miles every second week and generally runs four days a week.

Jarlath receives injections to his left hip to keep the pain at bay while running on the road.

To give his joints a break, during the winter he runs cross country and often does a five-mile trek around Kylebrack Wood.

He is planning on running his 150th marathon in Cork on June 4, where a group of 20 made up of work colleagues, friends and running mates from Loughrea Athletics Club will join him.

Some are doing the 10k, others are doing the half marathon, but all will be there on the finishing line to cheer him on in the phenomenal achievement.

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Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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