56 February/March 2024 February/March 2024 57
‘M
icheline’s Three Conditions’
stands out for being a story
about winning a contest over
issues of equality. When it
comes to social change, such
stories are rare in Ireland. We are more
accustomed to tales of worthy defeat. This book
is important for oering analysis and strategy for
others to follow suit and advance change for
gender equality, and wider equalities.
This is no weighty tome to grace the radical
bookshelf. Despite the complex matters it
addresses, it is novelesque in its treatment of
place, its examination of character. It aords
attention to the emotions and the relationships
involved. It is fun to read.
This is a story of sustained injustice, bringing
the corruption of patriarchy out from the
shadows. It is a story of courage and challenge.
In this, it is not all about battles and high drama,
but more about the hard work and creative
endeavour over years to make victory possible. It
is a story of justice done and change achieved.
The institution involved is the University of
Galway and the institutional discrimination is that
against women found in its promotion processes.
The people driving this story are six women who
fought legal battles to challenge this
discrimination from 2009: first Micheline Sheehy
Skengton through the Equality Tribunal; then
Adrienne Gorman, Roisin Healy, Margaret
Hodgins, and Sylvie Lannegrand, through the
High Court; and finally Elizabeth Tilley through
the Labour Court. ‘Micheline’s Three Conditions’
grew from these legal battles to form the
cornerstone of the campaign for change that is at
the heart of this story.
The 2009 promotion process that sparked the
legal battle promoted sixteen men to the
position of senior lecturer and only one woman
(marked last among those promoted). This was
the result of a process without any evident
systematic comparison between candidates,
centre stage in the University of Galways culture,
systems and practices. Further, it was victory in
stimulating the Higher Education Authority to
advance gender equality across this level of
education.
A story about winning oers hope. This is not
hope as naïve belief that all will be well in the end
if we just keep our chins up. Rather, as Rebecca