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Staff and Departmental Structure

Basil Chubb (1921–2002) was appointed Professor of Political Science on 16 March 1960; this was not what would today be termed a personal chair but, rather, the establishment of a permanent Chair of Political Science of which he was the first occupant, a firm statement that Political Science was being recognised and institutionalised as a discipline in its own right. Whether the term 'department' was formally employed or not, Basil Chubb was head of the de facto department during the 1960s, which he combined with being Bursar (in effect, Minister for Finance) of Trinity College. His appointment to the chair in the spring of 1960 and the effective creation of a Department of Political Science during the 1959–60 academic year meant that the first students to complete the 4-year undergraduate cycle since the creation of the department would have graduated in the summer of 1963 (though in reality the undergraduate programmes were completely unaffected by this development), and on this admittedly arguable basis an approximately-50th anniversary was celebrated by a series of special events for alumni in August 2013.

Chubb had been appointed a Lecturer at TCD on 1 April 1948 while still working on his PhD thesis at the University of Oxford; his undergraduate studies had been interrupted by the second world war, in which he took part as a member of the RAF, and he spent 15 months in a German prisoner-of-war camp, an experience that may well have given him a perspective that enabled him not to attach undue importance to the daily vicissitudes of academic life. His uncle, Sir Cecil Chubb, a wealthy barrister, had bought Stonehenge in 1915 for £6,600 and then gifted it to the nation in 1918, being awarded the title of Baronet the following year. Basil Chubb was promoted to Reader in December 1955, was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1969, and held the chair from 1960 until his retirement in 1991. While best known as an Irish politics specialist, he taught in a range of areas and from the late 1970s until his retirement he taught a highly-regarded final-year module on 'Public policy-making'. Just as his time as Trinity's Bursar is sometimes seen as having dragged the college's financial management system into the second half of the twentieth century, so he did much to professionalise the study of politics in Ireland. His most important contribution was The Government and Politics of Ireland (Stanford University Press, 1970), a path-breaking analysis that was not only the first systematic attempt to apply social science techniques to the study of Irish politics, hitherto largely the preserve of historians, but also broke new ground by gathering much of the data needed for such analysis. The book laid a foundation for the study of Irish politics upon which all subsequent work in the field has built, directly or indirectly. In addition, he made a broader impact on Irish life and society, through his work as chairperson of the Employer–Labour Conference for many years after 1970, and as a result of the analysis conducted by himself and David Thornley at the time of the 1968 referendum on the abandonment of proportional representation. He and Thornley also wrote a number of influential newspaper articles on governance in Ireland, later published in booklet form as Irish Government Observed (1965) - view cover (Chubb is on the right and Thornley on the left, though the labelling might imply the opposite). The findings of this analysis about the way in which votes would have been converted into seats for the various parties at the previous general election played a significant role, by all accounts, in convincing voters that a move to the British single-member plurality system would be undesirable. His entry in the DIB gives more information. He is commemorated through the annual Basil Chubb prize awarded by the Political Science Association of Ireland (PSAI) for the best politics PhD thesis conferred by a university in Ireland in the previous year.

Basil ChubbBC Retirement

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After Basil Chubb's retirement, the position of Professor of Political Science lay vacant for two years before being filled in 1993 by Michael Laver, who moved east from his previous position in NUI Galway. Michael Laver, who was and is widely regarded as one of the world's leading political scientists, was Head of Department 1993–98 and 2002–04. He took up a new position at New York University in January 2005 and the Chair in Political Science has lain vacant ever since, although four different staff members, originally appointed as Lecturers, have risen to the rank of Professor through promotion to personal chairs.

Chubb was not the first person appointed as a Lecturer in Political Science in Trinity. That distinction belongs to Olive Gertrude Armstrong (1892–1958), who herself had graduated from TCD in 1913 with a BA in History and Political Science. She was appointed to this position as from 19 May 1934 and remained there until the end of the 1956–57 academic year. Armstrong, whose life and career are summarised in Nadia Clare Smith, A "Manly Study"?: Irish women historians, 1868–1949 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp. 110–11, was by training a medieval historian who was best known for her 1923 book Edward Bruce's Invasion of Ireland, whose tone is described by Smith as 'didactic and moralistic'. According to Smith, Armstrong was unionist and pro-British and had 'ambivalent feelings about independent Ireland' (pp. 111, 115). She combined her post in Trinity with teaching history and civics at Alexandra College, a well-resourced girls' school on the south side of Dublin with a Protestant ethos. She was also a long-standing vice-president of Trinity College's debating society the Dublin University Historical Society. Despite her lack of training as a political scientist and the absence of any evidence of research by her in this field, the teaching in politics during her time drew on what were then current and well-regarded works of political science as opposed to political history (see Undergraduate section).

While on the TCD staff she is credited with only one publication, an article in the 1941 volume of the Trinity journal Hermathena. In this article ('The necessity of immaterialism', Hermathena 57 (1941) 82–106) she declares herself to be 'in profound disagreement with the thought of my own day' (p. 106), attributes the second world war to the excessive importance attached to material factors and states her adherence to (Bishop) George Berkeley's immaterialist theory of the world, according to which only mental states, and not material things, exist. She indicates her disagreement with a formidable list of materialists: Marx, Darwin and the theory of evolution, Hume, Shelley, Dostoevsky, Bertrand Russell, Huxley, Auden, Nietzsche ('the man who more than any other is responsible for this war'), and for good measure takes a sideswipe at James Joyce with a reference to 'his slobbering style'.

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After Olive Armstrong retired in 1957 (she died on 16 December 1958) she was replaced by another woman, a notable event given the overwhelmingly male composition of university academic staff at the time; two of the department's first three lecturers were women. The new appointment, as a Junior Lecturer from 21 September 1957, was Bernice Margaret Hamilton, who held a BA and a PhD from the University of London. Like Olive Armstrong she belonged to a religious minority, Armstrong being an Irish Protestant and Hamilton an English Catholic. According to a biographical note (in Illtud Evans (ed.), Light on the Natural Law (London: Compass Books, 1965), p. 126) she had 'a cosmopolitan education', after which she took a history degree at the London School of Economics and also did some teaching there. She had been a lecturer at University College of the Gold Coast (later Ghana) from 1948 to 1952, where she was in charge of the history department, though her specialisation in the political thought of sixteenth century Europe may have made her position somewhat anachronistic in the context of growing nationalism and interest in African history. According to one of her contemporaries, 'she had no especial interest in history in Africa' (John Fage, 'Legon and Birmingham' in A. H. M. Kirk-Greene (ed.), The Emergence of African History at British Universities (Oxford: Worldview Publications, 1995), p. 63). While at Trinity Dr Hamilton taught in the area of the history of political thought, with a particular interest in Catholic political and social theory and the contested concept of 'natural law'. Another biographical note, in The Month (July 1975) p. 196, states that 'Her interests lie in the history of ideas, particularly those lying on the borders of ethics and politics'. She remained on the staff in Trinity for two or three years. She was replaced by David Thornley, with no further political theorist being appointed until 1969. She returned to the UK to become a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, and she also held a Simon Research Fellowship at the University of Manchester. She was then appointed to the position of senior lecturer in political science at the University of York and became the first Provost of that university's Alcuin College in 1967, a position she held until 1976 - view her portrait.

Her monograph Political Thought in Sixteenth-century Spain: a study of the political ideas of Vitoria, De Soto, Suárez and Molina was published by Oxford University Press in 1963. The Thomist concept of natural law formed the framework for these theologians' discussion of politics, and the book as a whole was described as being 'solidly documented and well-written' (Edward Taborsky in Journal of Church and State 6:1 (1964), 102–4), though another review pronounced it 'difficult to read' because of its organisational structure (H G Koenigsberger in Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 42:1 (1965), 56). It explores and assesses these theologians' views not only on natural law but also on such topical issues as the relationship between church and state and the concept of a 'just war'. In the Acknowledgements section of the book she expresses her indebtedness to 'many Spanish writers in this field, not least to D. Manuel Fraga Iribarne of the Instituto de Estudios Politicos'. As well as being director of this institute Fraga Iribarne was the author of over 50 books, but he is now better known as having been Minister for Information and Tourism in Franco's government between 1962 and 1969 and, after the restoration of democracy, as the co-founder and leader of the main right-wing opposition party the AP (later PP) from 1977 to 1987 and 1989 to 1990. Dr Hamilton also wrote the standard account of 'The medical professions in the eighteenth century' (Economic History Review 4:2 (1951), 141–69). Both of these works are recorded as having a respectable number of citations on Google Scholar (respectively 339 as of August 2021 and 84 as of August 2022). She was an occasional contributor to the British Catholic periodical The Tablet and was among a large number of lay Catholics who in October 1968 published in that journal a statement expressing their disagreement with the recently-issued papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which reaffirmed traditional church teaching to the effect that the use of 'artificial contraception' was always and inherently morally wrong.

Between 1949 and 1965 Donal O'Sullivan was listed in the TCD Calendar as 'Lecturer in international affairs', though it is unclear how much teaching was required in the position. O'Sullivan was known better for a range of other activities than for his work in Trinity. He was born in 1893 in Liverpool to Irish parents, had been in the British navy during the first world war, and had transferred to the Irish civil service in 1922. He was clerk to the Irish Free State Seanad during that body's existence between 1922 and 1936; he resigned from the public service upon the abolition of the Seanad, and later wrote The Irish Free State and its Senate (London: Faber and Faber, 1940), whose scope was broader than its title might suggest, being a useful history of the first decade and a half of the independent Irish state, albeit one marked by a clear sympathy with the pro-Treaty side of contemporary debates. He became an elected member of the new Seanad, serving one term (1943–44). After this he dedicated himself primarily to the study and promotion of Irish folk music, writing a number of books and articles, most notably a 2-volume study of the famous harper Turlough Carolan (Carolan: the Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper (1958)). His work has been credited with contributing to the revival of the Irish musical tradition and thereby with inspiring such artists as Seán Ó Riada and The Chieftains. He died in April 1973. His entry in the Dictionary of Irish Biography gives more information.

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The number of staff grew slowly from its complement of two in 1960. David Thornley, having been appointed a Junior Lecturer in December 1959, was promoted to Lecturer in September 1962 and to Associate Professor as from October 1968. He is the subject of Yseult Thornley (ed.), Unquiet Spirit: Essays in memory of David Thornley (Dublin: Liberties Press, 2008), which contains a number of assessments and reminiscences of him, the theme of many chapters being that Thornley's life was one of great promise, only partly fulfilled. Like Olive Armstrong, he was a Trinity graduate; he had entered Trinity in 1951 at the precocious age of 16 and graduated four years later with a first-class degree in Modern History and Political Science. His 1959 PhD thesis was published in 1964 by MacGibbon and Kee (London) as Isaac Butt and Home Rule. Reviews were generally favourable, praising the level of scholarship, though one (Nicholas Mansergh in Irish Historical Studies 14:54 (1964) 183–5) expressed doubt as to whether Butt was sufficiently significant to warrant a biography and felt that the book exaggerated the importance of its subject. A later writer suggested that Thornley 'felt a strange sympathy' with Butt and identified 'a strange correspondence' between Butt's life, as related in Thornley's account, and Thornley's own (W. E. Vaughan, ' 'An element of electoral politics intruded into his life' ', in Unquiet Spirit, pp. 46 and 47). While in Trinity Thornley excelled in both boxing and singing, for which he won a Royal Irish Academy of Music prize in 1970. He was known to begin seminars in his module on 'Irish working-class movements 1864–1914' by pouring a glass of sherry for each of the students present, which no doubt contributed to the liveliness, or possibly the mellowness, of the class discussions.

Thornley acquired a high public profile as a current affairs presenter on RTÉ in the late 1960s, and was elected to the Dáil in 1969 at the head of the poll as a Labour TD for Dublin North-West. He was re-elected in 1973, but with a reduced vote and, despite the high expectations with which he had entered the Dáil in 1969, he was not seriously considered for a cabinet or junior ministerial role when Labour entered government in March 1973. As Ireland had just joined the European Union Labour was called on to nominate two MEPs (MEPs were not directly elected until 1979). The party asked another Labour TD, Barry Desmond, to take one of these positions, but he declined; the poisoned chalice was passed to Thornley, who accepted it. He was a Labour MEP for four years, a role that unfortunately contributed to his health problems, in particular his difficulties in dealing with alcohol. Barry Desmond later wrote of Thornley's becoming an MEP that 'It was to be David's death warrant' ('Our lost comrade' in Unquiet Spirit, p. 143). Thornley lost his Dáil seat at the 1977 election and died in June 1978, at the age of only 42, before he had been able to return to academic life on a full-time basis. His DIB entry gives fuller details of his life.


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In September 1963 Patrick Keatinge became the fifth permanent appointment to the department when he was appointed a Junior Lecturer; he became a Lecturer in October 1966 and in 1992 he became Jean Monnet Professor in European Integration, being elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in the same year. He had graduated from Trinity with a BA in Modern History and Political Science in the late 1950s, and also had a masters degree from the University of London. His 1968 Trinity PhD thesis on the formulation of Irish foreign policy was supervised by Basil Chubb. Patrick Keatinge was initially hired with the challenging brief of teaching both comparative politics and international relations. After some years of teaching in both these areas (the comparative politics modules focused in particular on France and the USA), as well as a History module on the League of Nations, the arrival of additional staff with expertise in various aspects of comparative politics enabled him to concentrate on international relations. He was for many years Ireland's leading authority on Irish foreign policy and the European Union, and he retired in 1999 after 36 years in the Department. In 2002 a volume of essays written by former students was published in tribute to him: Ben Tonra and Eilís Ward (eds), Ireland in international affairs - interests, institutions and identities: Essays in honour of Professor N. P. Keatinge (Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 2002). He is commemorated through the Patrick Keatinge Undergraduate prize awarded annually to the Senior Sophister student, studying Political Science alone in SS year, who achieves the best performance.

The appointment in October 1969 of two new Junior Lecturers, Ronald J Hill and John Joseph O'Day, brought the staff complement to 5, and now there was no doubt that the critical mass needed to constitute a department had been attained. John O'Day resigned in 1976 to return to the USA, where he went on to work in public affairs. Ron Hill, long regarded as one of the world's leading experts on communist politics, was made Professor of Comparative Government in 1991, became a Senior Fellow of TCD in 2006, and retired in September 2007 after 38 years in the department, including serving as Head of Department from 1991 to 1993. In 2014 he published Grammar School Boy: a Lincolnshire education (Clifden: Clifden Gate Publications) in which he recounts his early years and his school education. The book – which his former students will be unsurprised to learn is completely free of any typos, dubious grammar, convoluted syntax or stylistic infelicities – outlines the opportunities that education opened up for him, taking him away from the life of 'drudgery, hard work and limited expectations' that his parents had known, but at the same time bringing about a distance between himself and the environment in which he had grown up. He is commemorated through the annual Ronald J Hill prize awarded for performance in the annual Scholarship exams (first award in 2016).

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In October 1973 Michael Marsh was appointed a Junior Lecturer, the eighth permanent appointment, and it was primarily through him that the 'behaviourist revolution' in the study of politics reached Trinity. Michael Marsh had been trained at two universities known for their strength in a behaviourist and quantitative approach to the study of politics, Essex and Strathclyde, and he was also one of the first appointees, perhaps the first, to have an undergraduate degree in political science. He rose to become Head of Department (1998–2002 and 2004–05), Head of the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy (2005–08), Professor of Comparative Political Behaviour in 2007, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (2008–10 and 2011–12), and Vice-Provost (Chief Academic Officer) of TCD in 2010–11. He became one of the foremost analysts of electoral behaviour both in Ireland, as founder and director of the Irish National Election Study (INES) and more widely, as a leading analyst of voting behaviour at European Parliament elections across the EU. He retired in 2013 after 40 years' service in the Department, though remains an active researcher. The book A Conservative Revolution? Electoral change in twenty-first-century Ireland, published by Oxford University Press in March 2017, to which he contributed, can be seen as the equivalent of a festschrift for Prof Marsh, with contributions from many of those who have had the privilege of working with him over the years as colleagues, collaborators or PhD students. He is commemorated by the Michael Marsh prize, founded in 2021, awarded annually to the JS student who performs at the highest level in the JS modules in research methods.

With Michael Marsh's appointment in 1973 the department was in a strong position, with six members (Chubb, Thornley, Keatinge, Hill, O'Day and Marsh), and seemed poised for growth given the high levels of interest among students in the study of politics. Unfortunately, though, Michael Marsh's arrival in 1973 proved to be the last expansion appointment for a quarter of a century. The next three appointments were all replacements. Following John O'Day's departure, in 1977 James L Hyland (invariably known as Eddie Hyland) was appointed as the department's resident political theorist, a position that he retained up to his retirement in 2010 and indeed beyond, as he continued teaching on a part-time basis in the department until the end of the 2014–15 academic year. Hyland was only the second member of staff to have completed a PhD before he took up his post; all previous appointees, apart from Bernice Hamilton, had still been working on theirs when initially appointed. His book Democratic Theory: the philosophical foundations (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995) is an outstanding analysis of the concept of democracy, a concept that 'has come to reign supreme in the pantheon of political ideas'. The book Raj Chari (ed.), Hard Questions for Democracy (Abingdon: Routledge, 2013) is in effect a festschrift for Dr Hyland. He is commemorated through the annual Eddie Hyland prize awarded for the best performance in SS year by a student following the History and Political Science programme (first awarded in 2018).

In 1979 Michael Gallagher was appointed to the vacant lectureship created by the untimely death of David Thornley, becoming the tenth permanent appointment to the department. (Thornley also held a position in the Department of History, where he was replaced by Dr David Fitzpatrick, who went on to a very distinguished career as a historian, serving in the History department until 2015 and remaining an active researcher until his death in February 2019.) In a 1991 article Gallagher introduced the least squares index, which subsequently became adopted as the standard measure of vote–seat disproportionality, and he has written a number of articles and book chapters on various aspects of comparative politics, especially electoral systems, and on Irish politics, as well as being involved in many volumes in the How Ireland Voted series analysing Irish elections. Gallagher continued teaching until the end of the 2020–21 academic year, having taught the same module (Irish Politics) at the same university in six different decades, from the 1970s to the 2020s inclusive. In 1993, following Basil Chubb's retirement, Michael Laver became the second Professor of Political Science, as noted above. From 1979 to 1991 the department displayed a level of stability that was remarkable even in that era; it consisted of the same six individuals (Chubb, Keatinge, Hill, Marsh, Hyland and Gallagher), and only of these six, each of whom was to serve at least 36 years in the department.

Staff 1995

Photo above shows departmental staff in 1995. From left to right: Eddie Hyland, Patrick Keatinge, Michael Marsh, Michael Laver, Michael Gallagher, Ron Hill, Robert Singh, Miriam Nestor.


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At that time (and indeed later) the department was fortunate to have a series of particularly dedicated and efficient administrative staff, then termed secretaries but later executive officers (EOs) to reflect their range of responsibilities. Its last EO while in House 6 (see section on Location) was Carol O'Sullivan, who took part in the move to the Arts Building, and she was succeeded by Gillian McGarry (1979–81). Orla Sheehan was then the Political Science EO for four years (1981–85) and she went on to hold a range of senior administrative positions within Trinity at both School and Faculty level and in the Office of the Vice-Provost prior to her retirement in July 2018. The longest serving EO was Miriam Nestor (1985–2000), who was not only a great support for staff and a helpful and welcoming presence for undergraduates but also provided a particularly sympathetic ear for PhD students in the early and very demanding days of the department's integrated PhD programme after its introduction in 1995.

Not until the appointment of Ken Benoit as a Lecturer in 1998 did the number of permanent academic staff rise beyond the 1973 level. (Prof Benoit remained in the department as a full-time member until December 2010, when he moved to the LSE Methodology Institute, and he continued as a member of staff on a part-time basis until the end of 2018.) The arrival of Raj Chari as a Lecturer in 1999 marked a further expansion, but the next permanent appointment, that of Gail McElroy as a Lecturer in 2005, was in effect a replacement for Michael Laver following his departure for New York.

Information on current staff can be found on the People page and the News and News Archive pages contain information on arrivals and departures in recent years. As well as those staff members already mentioned, other past permanent staff members include Dr Nalini Persram (appointed 1999), who left the department in 2006 after seven years in TCD to take up a position at York University in Toronto; and Professor Robert Thomson (appointed 2005), a leading scholar of decision-making in the EU and of pledge fulfilment by political parties, who left in December 2012 to take up a chair at University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.