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Discourse of the University

category national | irish social forum | opinion/analysis author Friday June 02, 2006 18:33author by Donnchadhauthor email Donn2010 at hotmail dot comauthor address Dublin 20 Report this post to the editors

Irish Revisionism

How Irish revisionism follows what French psychoanalyst and intellectual Jacques Lacan describes as the "Discourse of the University."


It seems to me that the discourse theory of Jacques Lacan, taking its cue from Marx’s theory of surplus value, gives very clear insights into the motivation and modus operandi of the Irish revisionist movement. We will see it going into overdrive with the release of Ken Loach’s new film. Our status quo is based on what Lacan calls the “discourse of the master”, where the master/capitalist conceals his own limitation and lack of any justification beyond his own will. He presents a front of complete authority to the worker/slave, who is forced to produce a surplus of knowledge and product, which is then appropriated by the master for his own enjoyment.
The master’s discourse depends for its justification on the “discourse of the university.” Here the academic, working on behalf of the master, produces systematic knowledge which produces authority which masks the blind will of the master, i.e. the truth behind this manufactured authority. The knowledge produced by the university addresses the subtraction of enjoyment taken from the worker and rationalizes or justifies it. Political decisions based on power are presented as simple insights into the factual state of things. The product of this academic’s knowledge is millions of people alienated and excluded from the product of their work and from the societies in which they live. Lacan, being a psychoanalyst, draws attention to the way this academic “gets off” on the subjugation of the people who are the victims of his knowledge. Lacan also points out that genuine science has a completely different discourse which sets out from a position of alienation and seeks to question the master and test his justification.
I think any observer taking a brief look at any of the O’Reilly family’s publications any week, or the publications of any revisionist academic, will not find much interrogation of the master. He will, however, see constant attempts to criminalize the people’s struggle and to justify partition and the Anglo-phone, Anglo-centric, neo-liberal status quo. A quick look a the Sunday Indo will show pages dripping with pleasure as revisionists get off on kicking the MOPE’s (Most Oppressed People Ever; Indo-speak for the nationalist people of the six counties). Funny how close that word is to POPE, no doubt Freud would have made something of the connection. Of course, their voluminous work alienates the nationalist people. No less does it alienate the unionist people of the North as their discourse is not listened to, but is brutishly corralled into a weapon in the war against the republican movement. (One thinks of the role played by Conor Cruise O’Brian in collapsing months of peace talks between the IRA and the Ulster Loyalist Central Co-ordinating Committee in 1976.) Working in the service of the master, more or less any kind of argument will do, as long as it takes on the guise of reason and rationality.
That the master in Ireland is fully confident in the performance of the university discourse in neutralising “issues,” such as the people of Rossport, can be seen in a statement by Tony O’Reilly Jnr., quoted in the Sunday Business Post on May 7. Speaking of renewed interest in searching for oil and gas around Ireland he says: “You have issues with Bolivia, Venezuela and the Ukraine. International oil companies are asking, where can we go in the world where we can find hydrocarbons and be sure that we can develop them and have a secure supply chain? Ireland has that.”

Related Link: http://www.Lacan.com
author by Donnchadhpublication date Fri Jun 02, 2006 18:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

No matter what you might think of PSF, the lastest spy allegations are an excellent example of hired hacks doing the master's dirty work.

author by Joe Soappublication date Fri Jun 02, 2006 20:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What in the name of God are you trying to say? Concealing your argument with vague allusions and references without ever clarifying your point might impress and plaumause those already on your side, but it will only alienate everybody else.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Sat Jun 03, 2006 04:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Looking at the contributions to this site Im sure very few here will doubt that Irish universities, mass media and Leinster House are bought and paid for by big business interests who want to keep the status quo, but Lacan would say that their whole reason for existance in the first place was to give the brute force of the master a semblence of objective authority and justification. No reasonable person believes Leinster House delivers democracy - but it certainly delivers for the likes of Tony O'Reilly who can boast to Forbes magazine that because he is the biggest newspaper owner in Ireland he can get the politicians to give him whatever oil and gas fields he wants.

author by Joe Soappublication date Sat Jun 03, 2006 19:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Give me one shred of evidence that universities - whatever about the media and the government - are somehow being bought by these sinister forces.

author by veblenitepublication date Sat Jun 03, 2006 22:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

How about:
The Higher Learning In America: A Memorandum On the Conduct of
Universities By Business Men
by Thorstein Veblen
1918

Related Link: http://socserv2.mcmaster.ca/~econ/ugcm/3ll3/veblen/higher
author by Joe Soappublication date Sun Jun 04, 2006 13:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That was written almost ninety years ago in a different country under very different conditions.

I think if you attend any university in Ireland today you will find that quite often the lecturers lean far more to the left than their pupils. Many of the lecturer's I've had have been involved in Marxist or liberal movements - hardly something "the man" would permit if he was controlling universities.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Sun Jun 04, 2006 16:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Maybe individual lecturers you had were of a left wing mindset but did you see any of these individuals in charge of university policy? Were capitalist and socialist economic models presented with equal weight as possible models for the future? Was the ligitimacy of the state system ever seriously challenged or even questioned in exam questions? Were the effects of cultural and economic colonialism in Ireland (or anywhere else) exposed and challenged?

author by Donnchadhpublication date Sun Jun 04, 2006 19:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Irish universities depend to a huge extent on corporate patronage for their funding, for example Trinity college took money from Tony O’Reilly to build a science building – they named the building the O’Reilly building. By taking this money they were saying that it was clean money – that the O’Reilly family had taken this money justly from Irish workers. Trinity gave its stamp of approval to the system which allowed O’Reilly to have this money to give them. Notice that Trinity College did not name the building after one of the immigrant workers who risk their lives from Monday to Friday, dodging between traffic, selling the O’Reilly rag The Evening Herald, for few euro while Sir. Anthony reclines in luxury in his tax exile in the Bahamas.

author by Joe Soappublication date Sun Jun 04, 2006 22:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Was the ligitimacy of the state system ever seriously challenged or even questioned in exam questions? Were the effects of cultural and economic colonialism in Ireland (or anywhere else) exposed and challenged?"

Um, yes, it's standard fare for most sociological, philosophical and political classes. You should sit in on one sometime.

"Trinity College did not name the building after one of the immigrant workers who risk their lives from Monday to Friday, dodging between traffic, selling the O’Reilly rag The Evening Herald, for few euro while Sir. Anthony reclines in luxury in his tax exile in the Bahamas."

Which one do you suggest?! Like him or loathe him - and I'm inclined towards the latter - Sir Tony has put in far more work in building his business than the immigrant worker has into his job. And he ought to be free to dispose of his money in whatever way he chooses. And fair play to him for doing something philantropical.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 00:49author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well my idea of challenging the state and yours are probibly quite different. It goes without saying that if Trinity college had decided to name a building after one of the poor workers whos life is being put at risk every day to sell O'Reilly family rags like the Herald then Sir. Tony as you call him (a shamfull imperialist bauble that the idiot takes pride in) would hardly have put money into it. You seem to think that there is something philantropic about getting a building named after you in Trinity. In reality, by doing this the O'Reillys have gained the university's stamp of approval for the system with allows O'Reilly senior to pass on his ill gotten gains to his offspring. It also gains the university's stamp of a approval for the system which allows Sir. Tony to boast to Forbes magazine that because he is the biggest newpaper owner in Ireland he could get the politicians to give him whatever oil and gas fields he wanted. No need to mention the eircom debacle.

author by Joe Soappublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 02:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1. He paid for the building. Without his money there would be no building. That's philanthropy. Fact.

2. You also referred to him as "Sir. Anthony". What's your point?

3. How exactly are his gains ill-gotten? Fair enough his papers may be terrible, but he broke no laws.

4. We live in the system that Trinity and Sir Tony approve of. Most people approve of it, more or less. If you don't like it, how about throwing a protest march or something?

5. The government had no role in selling Eircom to Sir Tony. They might be responsible for the over-inflated launch price, but they had no hand in the companies subsequent sale. Don't distort the facts.

6. What a man says and what he can do are two different things. Sir Tony hasn't bought any oil fields, regardless of what he says.

7. The word "Sir" is not followed by a period.

author by Sir Nicepublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 03:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

O'Reilly is a Vice-Chancellor at Trinity. Philanthropy doesn't come into it.

"I think if you attend any university in Ireland today you will find that quite often the lecturers lean far more to the left than their pupils. Many of the lecturer's I've had have been involved in Marxist or liberal movements - hardly something "the man" would permit if he was controlling universities."

I'm just chuckling at the notion of left-wing Trinity lecturers. Do you know of any, Joe Soap, because I'd dearly love to meet them.

author by Joe Soappublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well I was speaking from my own experience in university - not Trinity. At any rate the whole Marxist thing is dead in the water, isn't it?

Trinity is pretty liberal - from a sociological point of view I mean.

There is no big conspiracy I'm sorry to say. It's just that most people in this country don't agree with Donnchadh and Sir Nice. It's tough, but that's life.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 18:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

He paid for the building. Without his money there would be no building. That's philanthropy. Fact.

No its not fact. Philanthropy means doing something for the benefit of mankind in general. Prostituting the universities in the furtherance of your family power is hardly for the benefit of mankind. Also if we had a real government instead of the brown envelope men we have there would be no need for Trinity go go begging to the likes to O'Reilly.

2. You also referred to him as "Sir. Anthony". What's your point?

I was using the Brit Imperial title as an insult!

3. How exactly are his gains ill-gotten? Fair enough his papers may be terrible, but he broke no laws.

If Independant newspapers were producing toilet paper they would have been closed down by now. Village magazine pointed out two weeks ago that the sunday independant has already produced eight completely bogus front page headlines since January. You dont think there is something ill-gotten about selling complete lies to the Irish people and charging them for it?

4. We live in the system that Trinity and Sir Tony approve of.

You are 100% correct on this one. But then Trinity is well paid by Sir Tony and other like him for their approval. But, of course, Trinity was set up in the first place to promote British Imperial robbery in Ireland - so they probibly didnt need too much pushing.

Most people approve of it, more or less.

Glad you qualified that one. Probibly all those who's parents werent rich enough to get them into university might not fully approve. Not to mention all those who are up to their necks in debt paying for matchbox houses and apartments.

5. The government had no role in selling Eircom to Sir Tony. They might be responsible for the over-inflated launch price, but they had no hand in the companies subsequent sale. Don't distort the facts.

They had a role in putting a vital national asset on the market to be picked up by parasites like O'Reilly.
Since he got his hands on it it has been leveraged to the point where it can no longer afford to invest in new technology. Its may soon be sold off again to a foreign company - no doubt with a huge profit for O'Reilly - but no benefit for the taxpayer who built up the company in the first place.

6. What a man says and what he can do are two different things. Sir Tony hasn't bought any oil fields, regardless of what he says.

Your right - he hasnt bought any oil or gas field - the free state has given him the licences for the Dunquin field, the Ardmore, Hook Head and Helvick prospects at an annual rental of 27 euro per square kilometre. O'Reilly has in turn farmed out the licences to Exxon Mobil who will bear all the cost of exploration while O'Reilly retains seven per cent of the total value of any find. He stands to make over a billion euro by doing nothing except finding some weak minded, corrupt, free state politicians like Ray Burke who signed over the licences to him.

7. The word "Sir" is not followed by a period.

Why should I care how the Brits spell their blood stained Imperial rewards?

author by Joe Soappublication date Mon Jun 05, 2006 22:06author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Your hatred of all things British is a bit pathetic and misguided.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Tue Jun 06, 2006 13:17author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I dont hate all things British - only British Imperial mass murder and robbery. It seems that you equate Britishness with British Imperialism. As Ken Loach (and others before him) has so brilliantly shown, they are not the same thing at all.

author by sniper on the ditchpublication date Tue Jun 06, 2006 17:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Sir Anthony accumulate a lot of his loot working in the USA as Heinz CEO ?

Surely your prejudices against "British Imperial mass murder and robbery" are a little one-sided ... after all the Yanks are hardly much better having effectively inherited the Great Imperial Power mantle from the Brits who have become pretty much the junior partner these days ...

author by Donnchadhpublication date Tue Jun 06, 2006 19:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I think you'll find that as a percentage of his total wealth the amount he made with Heinz was quite small - by far the greater part of his wealth comes from his manipulation of the weekness of free state politicians and putting out dishonest periodicals to mislead the Irish people. Why do you say my revulsion at British Imperialism is a prejudice? Sadly British Imperialism leaves far too many dead bodies and destroyed lives everywhere it goes for there to be any question of prejudice. And certainly you are right, American Imperialism (or any other Imperialism) is just as disgusting.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Wed Jun 07, 2006 14:34author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Having worked in a 2nd level school for a couple of years I would say that Irish universities are one of the main tools or devices that the privileged use to pass on their privilege to their offspring and keep out competition from the working class. The point system that the universities use to select entrants is a crude device that can easily be bought with cramming colleges and all the perks that the offspring of the wealthy enjoy. Meanwhile, as I often saw myself, the children of working class parents sleep in class because they are working at night to have a little pocket money. The utter unsuitability of some of the people we see working in the professions is a testament to the fact that being able to cram in lots of facts and figures and vomit them out on an exam form is not the best way to choose people. I think the sorry standard of the legal system in Ireland has a lot to do with the poor standard of many working in it - this is just one obvious example. You might say that this is just the way things are! True! But its hatefull to hear the self righteous crap that the universities come out with - when all the time they are just paid for lackys in the service of the masters of this society.

author by Joe Soappublication date Wed Jun 07, 2006 17:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Fair enough, the points system is unfair, but it's hadly class-biased! It takes hard work and slogging to get high points but that's got nothing to do with your socio-economic background.

The fact is there are numerous ways for poorer kids to get into university these days. Generous grants, the Access Programme etc. are all designed to encourage underpriviledged kids to get into the third level system.

In my experience the reason why middle class kids go to university more than their working class counterparts is because they see more value in education. Many working class kids don't want to go university and opt instead to leave school (often early) and get jobs immediately.

It's very easy for anyone of any background to get into university and people from working class backgrounds can get in even if they don't have enough points thanks to the Access Programme. What more can the state do?!

author by Donnchadhpublication date Thu Jun 08, 2006 02:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Dont you think its easier to put in the hard slog if you have the support rich kids have? They dont have to work at night for pocket money, their parents can afford to give incentives like foreign holidays for good results, they have their own room to study in, they have better food, cloths and medical care. And of course its a question of expectation - wealthy children expect to have at least what their parents have - they are trained into privilage. Nobody would suggest that an athlete with money behind him has only the same chance as one with poor facilities. No doubt some working class children are exceptional and make it through - but the children of wealthy parents dont have to be exceptional at all. I think if the universities were in any way serious about a fair competition they would operate a handicap system were children who have the advantage of wealth must get higher results than poor children - or better still devise an intelligent entry system were the attributes of candidates for specific courses are tested in accordance with their suitability for that course. For example canditates for psychiatry are chosen simply on the basis of how many points they got. Their ability to listen to people or empathise with them is not a factor. And yet a great proportion of their patients will be working class people who have broken down under the system the university helps to prop up. How will they talk to them or listen to them - they usually dont even speak the same language.

author by Joe Soappublication date Thu Jun 08, 2006 16:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"a handicap system were children who have the advantage of wealth must get higher results than poor children"

Yeah... penalise people because they're not poor. That's great. Fantastic idea.

"or better still devise an intelligent entry system were the attributes of candidates for specific courses are tested in accordance with their suitability for that course."

I completely agree with you on this point. Although I don't think being a good psychiatrist is just about being willing to listen to people. It's a hard course and dedication and eagerness to learn are important factors too. At any rate, I don't think that it would change the rates of poorer kids going to university.

author by get your hands dirtypublication date Thu Jun 08, 2006 17:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

For multiple reasons, perhaps too many to outline in a short on-topic comment. But I'm not sure its such a gripping issue. Universites in Europe and the USA boomed to supply "job markets" with an "emergent middle class" in the post war period, & in doing so created not only thousands of new universities out of trade and technical colleges, but a self-serving elite. I believe we need less students now & ought rethink completely the purpose and type of education our societies need.
First off to make it clear :- I am anti-university and anti-academia, believing that universities have become at worst little more than neo-bourgoise finishing schools and at best self-serving specialised elites, they are the corner stone of the "neo-victorian" class systems underwhich we labour. But I did have ample experience of universities having attended two, both of which were and are considered elitist which have been considering for roughly an equal time the challenges of "opening the lecture halls" to women, to the working class, to other religious denominations, to ethnic minorities, &c.., & ruefully admit to having taught in three.
It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote something akin to "Being socialist means supporting the abolition of the working class", I believe such an abolition is linked to the idea of "stop creating a middle class". When I matriculated to Oxford only 35% of students were drawn from state maintained schools (& it was impossible to know of those how many were "poor"), the majority came from public schools where the annual fees averaged the mean income of a "working class family", and only 9% came from "overseas" or on Rhodes scholarships. When I arrived at Trinity Dublin only 12% of students came from backgrounds meriting all the state support grants. There were only 2 students in the whole university who had served a prison sentance. It seemed to me that TCD at that time was more socio-economically elitist than Oxford. Years have gone by now but I don't see much evidence that either institution has changed that much. Only in the last three years have I listened to an academic "passed over" for a middle ranking appointment at a TCD department bitterly tell me :- "The other guy wore sensible shoes".
It is not just the fault of selection, or points, or even of grants - it is the fault of the self-serving elites who determine very early on in any child's life the limits of aspiration. But I honestly and passionately believe that these problems will find their solutions outside of the universities. There are very few jobs or very little work which really needs such training or formation. They being for the most part the vocations. But modern university approaches to Humanities is laughable from both the point of the students' approach and that of the teachers'. = Burn the Universities!
Knowledge is arguably the most free it has ever been - you don't need a certificate or diploma - you need teachers & experience.
& indeed quite a few of our clever types could really profit from a mao-ist patch of ploughing a fields.

author by Donnchadhpublication date Thu Jun 08, 2006 19:38author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I see where you are coming from in saying that your not sure its such a burning issue - and yet, as you say the universities are the cornerstone of the system of injustice imposed on us. It seems the universities control of information is such that most of us cant even imagine life without crooked, self serving, elitist universities. Not only have they covered their own dirty work but they cover the position of the master who they serve.

author by Michelle Clarke - Social Justice and Ethicspublication date Sun May 27, 2007 17:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I enjoyed this series of postings because in my case it closely aligned with my view of being a student at Trinity and having to leave just before my final exams in 2003. Health determined that but as I sought a form of alternative assessment to take account ABI (Acquired Brain Injury), complicated by Bipolar and anxiety. The suggestion to seek Alternative Assessment was initiated by the Disabilities Department in Trinity but I found myself afloat, ill with ME (recently confirmed a medical illness) and minus a degree I had worked very hard for.

I don't know how you can link up to the Irish Times. But to my great surprise, I saw an article written by Fintan O'Toole that expresses a similar view to the foregoing on this site and most definitely to mine and my writings to the Provost and department heads - Sociology, Politics, Psychology.

Education is being channelled.....thought formation restricted......and finance dictates the pace rather than a more traditional form of learning with an emphasis on shared participation and learning to explore and find out something challenging and different, to people who are predicting exam material, averaging out the questions they will most likely ask, and writing out their answer, often giving it to another and then learning off the predicted answers ... the equation solved is an average pass and enough.

Surely there ought to be more scope to education. I ask why if a student has say a mental health problem or other that it cannot be a motivator and extension of their degree material. What is the objective of our Universities? It is fair to say, it is virtually impossible to study medicine if you do not have dead bodies, so much so that initially bodies were stolen from graveyards.

I note that as I entered in 1997 as a mature student, many bright people either took a year out or said no - this is not the education I thought it was going to be.......Have these people a voice.

Well done Fintan O'Toole for writing on this subject.

Michelle Clarke

Quotation: Beware of Irish Education Limited (company formation and limited content only)
Noam Chomsky (born 1928) US Linguist, political analyst and leading critic of corporatism and globalisation

'What is called 'capitalism' is basically a system of corporate mercantilism, with huge and largely unaccountable private tyrannies exercising vast control over the economy, political systems, and social and cultural life, operating in close co-operation with powerful states that intervene massively in the domestic economy and international society'

author by Heads uppublication date Sun May 27, 2007 19:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A little heads up that Fintan O'Toole and others (e.g. Mary Raftery) are merely hinting at something darker and more serious than anything the Phoenix and others have skirted around, which is about to hit the media in a big way (in Ireland and internationally).

author by Shockerpublication date Sun May 27, 2007 23:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

That Mary Raftery piece should be shocking to the core in what it says about the universities and about standards of public office, as she wrote: "the approach taken [in investigating corruption in universities] is both dangerous and damaging". Apart from the hysterical reponse from Gerry O'Sullivan of the HEA (whose "strong, clear and open mechanisms of oversight and accountability" have clearly failed utterly), there has been not a peep in response.

Where is the Malone report that all those accused of corruption have seen, that one of those accused altered and circulated to journalists, that the replacement administration have seen? The accused have simply resigned and got off scot free. The accusers are left with no response to their accusations. Are the new administrators also corrupt bullies? Is the taxpayer still footing the bill for failure, nepotism and financial mismanagement?

Irish Times, Thursday 08/02/2007
Minister's blind eye in UCC row
Mary Raftery

The row in University College Cork must be one of the longest and nastiest in recent academic history. While obviously of central importance to UCC itself and its reputation, several aspects of the affair have considerably wider implications.
For more than four years, stories have appeared in the papers about the deep unease, even alarm, felt by many UCC academics about the stewardship of the university by its president, Prof Gerry Wrixon.
These came to a head last year when professor of philosophy Des Clarke produced a detailed list of problems. Himself a member of UCC's governing body, he wrote to Minister for Education Mary Hanafin last July, making 54 allegations concerning management failures within the university, particularly at governing body level.
Given the longevity of the internal row, and the resulting publicity and damage to UCC's reputation, it was clear that action was required from the Minister.
Mary Hanafin's response, however, was less than adequate. What UCC desperately needed was the appointment of a wholly independent investigator with full legal powers to access any and all materials and records pertinent to the allegations made.
Provision for precisely this had been made in the 1997 Universities Act. There was no need to reinvent the wheel - the simple appointment of a "visitor", designated as a sitting or retired High or Supreme Court judge under Sections 19 and 20 of the Act, would have suited the purpose admirably.
The Minister decided this was unnecessary. She said that to follow such a course of action would be to take the allegations too seriously.
In the context of such blatant pre-judging of the issues involved, it is hardly surprising that Des Clarke and his other whistle-blowing colleagues were dismayed at the eventual decision favoured by the Minister.
This, as Prof Clarke has correctly pointed out, was to allow the UCC governing body to control the selection of the individual who would investigate the allegations against itself. He or she would have no legal powers to inspect documents or force compliance with the inquiry. And further, the terms of reference were set by the very body under investigation.
In protest, Des Clarke refused to co-operate with the investigation, which was carried out by John Malone, a retired secretary general of the Department of Agriculture.
His report, which I have read, has yet to be formally discussed by UCC's governing body. It is a relatively short document and somewhat difficult to follow in that it presupposes an in-depth knowledge of the allegations made without listing them in detail. Mr Malone concludes: "It is clear that a number of the allegations put forward by Professor Clarke are correct both in substance and fact." He reports that others are trivial and that a number have not been 1 substantiated.
"However," he adds, “collectively they do not convey a good impression and they certainly highlight a lack of awareness and, in some cases, a disregard for process and procedures. The number of instances where short cuts have been taken, where procedures have not been used or have not worked is a matter of concern." Mr Malone concludes, however, that this does not amount to mismanagement. He found no evidence of corruption, and is complimentary about UCC's record of reform under its recently retired president, Gerry Wrixon.
He does, though, point to serious deficiencies in pursuing these reforms, particularly the failure to win the hearts and minds of the staff. He criticises the lack of leadership from the governing body, describing it as incapable of "acting in a collegial manner".
It is important to point out that Mr Malone's independence and integrity are unquestioned, and that he was satisfied he received full co-operation during his investigation.
Nonetheless, serious questions remain about the way in which the process of inquiry was established.
The visitor provision in the Universities Act was included for the excellent purpose of providing a transparent and legally-supported mechanism to investigate concerns relating to the governance of academic institutions.
The UCC case presented an important test as to whether the Government was prepared to apply this aspect of the legislation in a proper manner. It has manifestly failed to do so.
Instead, the approach taken is both dangerous and damaging. It creates the unpleasant precedent of allowing public bodies under investigation to have an unhealthily large say in how and by whom they are to be scrutinised.
It also sends a message that legal powers are not required for such a process.
It has been one of the most positive features of this country's rapid development that there is a growing intolerance for turning a blind, or even partially-sighted, eye when problems arise within public bodies. This relatively recent demand for strong, clear and open mechanisms of oversight and accountability is powerful evidence of a maturing democracy. It is one which a government ignores at its peril.

Irish Times, Letters, 16/02/2007
Row at University College Cork
Madam, - In her column of February 8th Mary Raftery suggested that the review of allegations relating to University College Cork was unsatisfactory and argued for the appointment of a visitor.
The article raises the wider issue as to whether due process and the public interest are best served by this kind of public comment on a leaked report. Leaving that aside, the article was misleading.
A visitor can be appointed to a university only after a number of hurdles are crossed - hurdles put in place to protect university autonomy. First, the Minister must believe on reasonable grounds that a university is acting illegally. A Minister could hardly reach that view solely on the basis of uncorroborated allegations.
The appointment of a person to review the allegations is reasonable due process in establishing if that first hurdle has been crossed.
UCC did not "control the selection" of Mr John Malone. The university and the Higher Education Authority agreed a process to review the allegations. Mr Malone was appointed following consultation with the HEA. The HEA has full confidence in his independence and expertise.
A visitor has no powers to "force compliance". The powers are to enter a university, inspect records, etc, and be given all reasonable co-operation. The HEA is satisfied that, as part of the agreed process, Mr Malone was given access to all relevant records and all relevant persons co-operated fully with him -except, as noted by Ms Raftery, the author of the allegations.
The governing body will now consider his report and refer it to the HEA with their views. The HEA will, in turn, advise the Minister.
The HEA takes very seriously its role in ensuring that there are "strong, clear and open mechanisms of oversight and accountability" in universities. The process put in place by the Governing Body of UCC, and agreed by the HEA, is a demonstration of the commitment to such mechanisms by the university and the HEA. - Yours, etc,
GERRY O'SULLIVAN, Head of Information, Higher Education Authority, Shelbourne Road, Dublin 4.

Related Link: http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/opinion/2007/0208/1170363883483.html
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