A newsletter for Department of Government students and staff
Volume 1, Issue 2, Monday 28 September 2009
Lord Mayor Visits Department
The Lord Mayor of Cork, Councillor Dara Murphy
(left) came to the Department on Friday 18
September to speak at the Annual Local Government
Workshop organised by Dr Theresa Reidy and Fiona
Buckley. The Lord Mayor praised the Department
for organising the event and also for its continuing
commitment to local government and local politics.
Over the course of his address, Councillor Murphy
advised local councillors to ‘play the media game’
and to be more aware of how the media works if they
wish to progress in their political careers.
The workshop attracted 30 councillors from Cork,
Limerick, Tipperary, Kilkenny and Meath, many of
whom are first-time elected members. The opening
paper was presented by Dr Aodh Quinlivan who
asserted that while the environment in which elected
members operate has changed a lot in the past twenty
years, the way that councillors perceive their own
role has not moved on. Professor Neil Collins
presented the challenges faced by the new public
management-style reforms and warned the
councillors that they were in danger of being
marginalised. Dr Theresa Reidy’s paper focused on
local government finance and argued that a local
property tax was the best solution available for local
After lunch, Fiona Buckley claimed that local
government is a cold environment for women and
she called for greater gender parity within the
system. Next, Mary Smithwick, the Political Editor
of the Evening Echo offered practical advice to
councillors about the local media. She stated that the
relationship was two-way and there had to be give
and take on both sides. The Lord Mayor then
brought the successful proceedings to a close.
Welcome to another jam-packed issue of Government Times. We hope you are enjoying the new academic
year and that First Year students, in particular, are settling in well. There is so much filled into this issue
and we hope that you will take the time to read it. For example, read about the innovative ‘Preparing for
Success’ programme (p. 3); the recent research and conference activities of staff members (p. 5); a report
from the Whalen Internship Programme in the New York State Legislature (p. 7) and the launch of the
annual Patrick O’Sullivan Essay Competition (p. 10).
In addition, there are many great events scheduled for the coming weeks as follows: -
Tuesday 6 October – Talk by Eddie Hobbs about the Irish economy, Boole 4, 7:30pm.
Wednesday 7 October – Lecture by Kevin Sullivan of the Washington-Ireland Programme in the
Aula Maxima at 10:00am. Kevin was the chief script writer for President Bill Clinton and he will
be talking about US politics. The lecture is compulsory for all BSc Government students.
Wednesday 7 October – The Government & Politics Mystery Tour starts off from Bob Fox’s pub
(off Washington Street) at 6:30pm. A great night is guaranteed so be sure to go along. If you have
any queries (don’t ask where the bus is going!) contact Greg at 085-1244813.
Tuesday 13 October – Information evening on the Washington-Ireland Programme. Please come
along if you are interested in this prestigious internship.
Wednesday 21 October – The POLSOC will be involved in a Mock Dáil. This promises to be
great fun as all of the political parties on campus and the International Relations Society are
involved. More details will be announced over the next fortnight.
Where will the Mystery Tour be this year?
Director of the BSc Government
Co-editor of Government Times
Auditor of the Government & Politics Society
Co-editor of Government Times
Department of Government Launches
Preparing for Success Programme for 2009
First Year Students
Following a successful application to the National Academy of Integrated Research Teaching and Learning
(NAIRTL) for funding, Dr. Seamus O’Tuama, along with Department of Government PhD students,
Natasha Underhill and Lyndsey El Amoud, launched their innovative Preparing for Success programme
for the 2009 cohort of first year BSc Government students last week.
The aim of the pioneering project is to help first year BSc Government students to build a bridge between
their second and third level education by offering them a range of targeted weekly workshops on a pilot
basis for the 2009/2010 academic year. These workshops will focus on both the academic and personal
development of students and will include a strong focus on up-skilling students with a variety of generic
competences including critical ability, research skills, computing skills, interpersonal skills, etc.
This ground-breaking programme represents an enormous opportunity for first year BSc Government
students as it is hoped that with the use of these workshops, students’ transition from second to third level
education will be quicker and more successful; student retention will be improved; the academic success
rate of first year students will be improved; the learning, research and skills development capacity of
students will be enhanced; and the overall first year experience will be more enjoyable for students.
Preparing for success with Natasha Underhill, Dr Seamus O’Tuama and Lyndsey El Amoud
Disappointment for John as Clare make history
John Mulhall, BSc Government
graduate 2009, was part of the
Kilkenny U-21 hurling team which lost
the All-Ireland final to Clare on a
scoreline of 0-15 to 0-14. Lining out at
left half forward, John was one of
Kilkenny’s best performers on the day
and contributed two fine points.
However, even John’s heroics could
not deny Clare their first All-Ireland
title at this grade. We wish John all the
best for the future in his academic and
Welcome to Sebastian … and farewell to Shane
Above: Dr Sebastian Bersick replaces Dr Shane Mac Giollabhuí on the Department of Government teaching
staff for the new academic year.
Dr Shane Mac Giollabhuí was on the Department of Government’s teaching staff in 2008/2009 but has
left for pastures new in the UK. We wish Shane well for his future career.
Shane is being replaced in 2009/2010 by Dr Sebastian Bersick. Sebastian is an expert in Chinese and
Asian politics and he will be a major addition for the Department. Sebastian has served as an Associate in
the Asia Division of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin and as a
Senior Research Fellow in the European Institute for Asian Studies in Brussels. In addition, Sebastian is a
member of the European Policy Centre (EPC) and specifically the Steering Committee Group ‘EU and
Asia.’ He has taught at Bristol University, Hamburg University, Renmin University, the Clingendael
Institute (Netherlands) and the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.
Welcome on board Sebastian!
Research and Conferences
September was a very busy month on the international conference front for the academic staff of the
Department of Government. Professor Neil Collins and Dr. Theresa Reidy participated in the annual
conference of the American Political Science Association (APSA) in Toronto. This is the largest political
science conference in the world each year with over 6000 participants. Theresa presented a paper examining
the politics of trade and environmental sustainability.
At the June local and European elections, the Department conducted a study of ballot paper design. The
research team included Fiona Buckley, Theresa Reidy and Neil Collins. This was a follow-on study from an
earlier investigation of ballot paper design conducted at the 2004 local and European elections. Over 1200
voters participated in the research and the results will be published over the next few months. The preliminary
findings were presented in a paper co-delivered by Fiona Buckley and Theresa Reidy at the ECPR (European
Consortium for Political Research) Annual Conference at Berlin’s Universitat Potsdam in September. Fiona
Buckley delivered two further papers at that ECPR Conference, one examining the appointment of women to
the Irish government and the other investigating the use of IT in the teaching and learning of political science.
Philip Murphy (PhD student) and Melissa Terret (visiting student) assisted with the study of ballot paper design.
Photos from the Local Government Worksop
18 September 2009
Top Left: Dr Mary Murphy chats with Dick Haslam. Dick is the former Head of Department and he also worked in
local government all of his life, including serving as County Manager in Limerick.
Top Right: Dr Theresa Reidy talks to Councillor Mary Jackman, Limerick County Council. Councillor Jackman is a
Bottom Right: The Lord Mayor shares an anecdote with the audience.
Bottom Left: Councillor Sinead Sheppard, Cobh Town Council, is a first-time councillor, elected on 5 June 2009.
On Placement with Darragh Mehigan
“I did my placement as a Whalen intern in the New York State
Assembly. It was an incredible experience. It really taught me the
ins and outs of how American politics work. The skills I have learnt
throughout the Government Degree assisted me in carrying out
tasks such as legislative research and writing press releases. These
tasks also helped me develop new skills which should be useful
throughout my final year of the Government Degree. The people in
the College of Saint Rose and the New York State Assembly were
most welcoming towards us. They help enormously with the
settling in process and were always more than willing to deal with
any query we had. I have to give Anne Wilkening of Saint Rose a
special mention; her dedication to the international students of
Saint Rose (of which I was one) was unbelievable. All in all, it was
a great work. It is a time I will always fondly remember.”
Apart from Darragh, five other students received Thomas Whalen Scholarships and served as interns in
the New York State Assembly in the summer of 2009. They were – Ian Mawe, Hayley O’Keeffe, Colm
Bergin, Eadaoin O’Halloran and Peter Horgan.
Peter managed to take some time off his busy schedule to meet up with Cynthia Nixon, the ‘Sex and the
Don’t forget ‘Threshold Voters’
By Philip Murphy
Philip Murphy is a PhD student in the Department of Government. He is a current holder of an IRCHSS
Government of Ireland scholarship.
The focus of my PhD research is the political efficacy of
‘threshold voters’ in the Republic of Ireland. Political
efficacy refers to a citizen’s appraisal of his/her ability to
influence and have effect in a political system. It has come to
be conceived as a two dimensional construct: involving
appraisal of one’s ability to understand and act within a
political system (internal efficacy); and appraisal of the
responsiveness of the system and its elites to such input
(external efficacy). Existing research has focused
significantly on the interaction between political efficacy and
political participation, with a similar concentration on related
attitudes such as political trust. My intention is to analyse the
relationship between; demographic factors (age, gender,
urban/rural); sociological factors (family and peer
considerations); interactive effects (interaction with political
elites); and one’s sense of political efficacy. In this way, it is
intended that research findings will contribute to a greater
understanding of how political efficacy is socialised in
Ireland at present, with applicability beyond its borders.
The project involves a primary research design due to the
lack of existing data. To date seven hundred of a proposed
one thousand self-administered written questionnaires have
been conducted under supervision in Cork city and county
schools. Methodological limitations of the research revolve
around the sample composition, survey environment and
salience of the topic for respondents. These risks apply to
most areas of social science research and require ongoing
consideration in the research design process. However, this
does not preclude such an attempt; as T.H. Huxley noted on
the task of scientific research: “The known is finite, the
unknown is infinite; intellectually we stand on an islet in the
midst of an illimitable ocean of inexplicability. Our business
in every generation is to reclaim a little more land”.
Moreover, an added bonus of this methodology is the
interaction which it allows with respondents beyond the book
cover and college gate. It provides an opportunity for the
respondents involved and for myself to gain insight of each
other’s worlds, while thinking about and tracing such
Finally, in relation to postgraduate study, the best analogy of
a PhD which I have come across is that of an apprenticeship
for a tradesman (or woman). It is an opportunity to cut one’s
teeth on an independent project with the support/supervision
of someone already active in the field. For undergraduates
currently considering postgraduate research, do not hesitate
to inquire of the existing batch of postgraduates ‘hanging’
around the department. However, as we are still mid-stream,
the teaching staff in the Department may be able to give you
a more reflective experience and an appreciation of what
opportunities currently exist in this and related disciplines.
Clarifying some Lisbon Treaty issues
By Dr Emmanuelle Schön-Quinlivan
On 2 October 2009, the Irish people are asked to ratify an amended version of the Lisbon treaty. On the eve of
voting on our vision for the future of the European Union, let’s dispel a few myths and recall a few truths.
1. “Lisbon would end what is left of our national sovereignty.”
When Ireland joined in 1973, it accepted to pool its sovereignty in certain areas over which the EU had competence.
The ‘pooling’ or ‘sharing’ of sovereignty is at the heart of the functioning of the EU. Without it, the EU would be
like any other international organisation, where one country equals one vote and nothing gets done.
2. “Lisbon creates a supranational European State.”
The EU after Lisbon, if it is ratified, will not have the attributes of a state:
It will not exercise sovereignty over its territory. It will not have a European police.
Its European Defence Agency will only operate on the basis of member states’
It will not have the right to decide on its competences. These will have to
be approved and granted by the member states through unanimity.
Are we seriously
Any country will be able to leave the EU at any time. comparing the EU with
the British coloniser?
3. “We’ll all be citizens of this new European State.”
This might come as a shock but we’re already citizens of the EU. Have a look at your passport. It states your country
of origin and that you’re a citizen of the EU. This European citizenship was created with the Maastricht Treaty. In
practice, this citizenship is a bit toothless. Citizenship includes legal, political and social rights. When it comes to
social welfare, the EU has zero competence. As for your legal and political rights, they are guaranteed by your
member state which has to comply with EU regulation when it comes to granting equal pay between men and
women or fighting discrimination in the workplace.
4. “Article 311 TEU will allow the EU to impose its own taxes on Ireland.”
The system of own resources is the way the EU has funded itself for decades. The Lisbon Treaty maintains exactly
the same system but adds the following “The Council, acting in accordance with a special legislative procedure,
shall unanimously and after consulting the European Parliament adopt a decision laying down the provisions
relating to the system of own resources of the Union. In this context it may establish new categories of own
resources or abolish an existing category. That decision shall not enter into force until it is approved by the
Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.” Everything remains in the
hands of the states. Ireland keeps its veto and every decision regarding the creation of a new category of own
resources will go to referendum.
5. “Control will be given to the big states, like Germany, and Ireland will get its voting rights squeezed
The new voting system in the Council of Ministers which will come into force in 2014 gives one vote to each
country. A decision is passed if 55% of the EU member states, representing 65% of the EU population, agree. This
system means that decisions will be more legitimate because you have a majority of countries representing a
majority of the EU people that will have agreed on a policy. BUT, this mechanism also includes a blocking minority
which means that at least four countries which are in disagreement can block any decision, even if it complies with
the double majority. Ireland has always punched above its weight in the EU, through making shrewd alliances when
voting was required, obtaining key positions in the EU Commission and sitting on crucial committees in the
European Parliament. Only Ireland has had two successive Secretaries-General of the Commission, David
O’Sullivan and Catherine Day.
The Patrick O’Sullivan Essay Writing
Competition 2009/2010 Academic Year
This essay writing competition celebrates the life and spirit of Patrick O’ Sullivan, who tragically died on 3
March, 2001. Patrick should have been amongst our first group of students who graduated in September
2003. Patrick had a deep interest in politics and he also possessed a great sense of humour. We try to
combine both of these elements in this annual essay competition.
This year’s title is:-
“For better, for worse, in sickness and in wealth.”
Is it time for Ireland to divorce the EU?
500 word essay, 2½ - 3 pages
Please supply your name and class year on a separate cover page
NO need to adhere to academic assignment guidelines re: referencing etc.
Typed or hand-written, but preferably typed!
Essays can be as light-hearted and as irreverent as you wish!
Department of Government
or electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org
DEADLINE: - Friday 30 October 2009
The writer of the winning essay will receive the Patrick O’ Sullivan Perpetual Shield.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL!
This competition is open to students of our Government degree, to Arts, Commerce and to
international students studying Government modules.
The competition is for under-graduates only.