The MacGill Summer School has been running for 38 years in Glenties, Co Donegal. In that period we have brought together hundreds of speakers from all areas of public life in Ireland to analyse and discuss current topics in an open forum with total access to all sessions for what we consider to be very accessible admission charges. The overall theme of MacGill over the past 15 years, in particular, has focused on Building a Better Ireland.  All of this has been achieved with very modest resources and a small organising team. I have devoted a substantial part of my life to the school because I value the engagement and discourse and its contribution to debate in Ireland.

This year’s programme builds on that heritage, tackling some of the major issues and challenges facing this country: Brexit; Our future role in Europe; our future relationships with Northern Ireland and the UK; our economy; the health service; planning for the future; improving our politics and administration and much more.

We have, however, fallen short of the very high standards for which MacGill has become known and which has led to audience growth year on year. Without question, women are under-represented numerically on our panels notwithstanding the strengths and high calibre of those women who accepted our invitation to contribute.

This is something we very much regret. In hindsight, it is reflective of an Ireland undergoing change, albeit slowly, and which still in 2018 has significant and widespread under-representation of women across many areas of public life. We are determined, in the short period remaining before MacGill 2018 commences, to do all that we can to redress this imbalance. To this end, we are working progressively to include in the programme two new sessions. One will focus on the recent referendum on Repeal of the 8th Amendment. The additional session will be tasked with cutting to the very heart of why MacGill and other organisations and public forums in Ireland have not embraced effectively gender balancing. To achieve this we need help and I would ask our audiences and particularly women to assist us in transforming MacGill 2018 by participating in the debates in Glenties which will help establish new foundations in our ongoing pursuit of building a better Ireland in the years ahead.

Joe Mulholland

Director, MacGill Summer School.

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