DCU sets up the Institute for Ethics. CPI Mark II or not?
The main task of the new Chair in Ethics is to conduct research in ethics, promote the teaching and debate of ethics in DCU and to lead the Institute. But the new Professor will also be expected to engage in debate on ethics issues nationally and internationally with the media, government institutions in Ireland, the European Union and other relevant bodies and organisations around the world.As the above blogger notes, immediately thought turns to American billionaire Chuck Feeney and the short-lived Centre for Public Inquiry which his Atlantic Philanthropies foundation funded for a time. (While Mr. Feeney does indeed have an association with DCU, there is no sign of any announcement on the AP website as to whether or not he is funding this venture).
The question is to who watches the watchers, and it's a relevant one given the manner in which the CPI was destroyed by its enemies in political life and the press. Alleged links between Executive Director Frank Connolly and Provisional Republican activities in Colombia (especially concerning the alleged use of a forged passport) were widely aired in public; the resulting scandal forced Feeney to withdraw his money and the Centre has apparently folded. As of today the last notice on the Centre's website is a statement in support of Connolly by CPI chairman Mr. Justice Feargus Flood, which is dated from December 16th 2005.
As regards who exactly will be funding the Chair and Institute, DCU is so far hewing to the Freedom Institute line as elucidated recently by Dickie Waghorne (in a reply to Tom Cosgrave):
On funding, we don't discuss individual donors as a rule for their confidentiality and ours, but it's no big deal mentioning that the large majority of funding sources are private individuals.While the desire for confidentiality of donors is understandable (as Feeney showed, they can be vulnerable to political pressure) the need to have transparency in these operations is essential in order to build trust and consequently legitimacy.
One only needs to consider the worst-case scenario of a magazine or think-tank operating here with lavish funding from a source with less than altruistic motives (or a university department being financed by a large corporation in the academics' own area of research and teaching). The US experience of the past forty years provides a sharp lesson on the harmful, distorting effect of such corporate shills on the public debate necessary to a healthy democracy.
(The original DCU announcement is here, with an RTÉ interview on Morning Ireland here in RealPlayer format. Bernie Goldbach and Potatriotique also have more.)