GUI appoints first Chairman in Iggy O Muircheartaigh

The Golfing Union of Ireland has appointed its first board with former President of NUI Galway  Iognáid (Iggy) Ó Muircheartaigh its first Chairman and solicitor Keith McGarry and senior executive John Power as independent members.

The new Board was appointed at a Special General Meeting of its Central Council, replacing the Executive Committee as a key move in the implementation of the Union's Strategic Plan, adopted in 2015.

Following an open recruitment process, the Nominations Committee, established at the GUI's AGM last February selected the three candidates and all were unanimously accepted by the meeting.

According to the GUI:

Ó Muircheartaigh is President Emeritus of NUI Galway: he also holds a position as Adjunct Professor in the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the University and continues to be involved in community and pro-bono activities.
McGarry a scratch golfer, is the senior partner in a firm of solicitors based in Lisburn, Co Antrim.  He was appointed as legal advisor to the Ulster Branch of GUI last November, a post he steps aside from upon joining the Board.
Power spent most of his working life in senior management positions with ESB.  He then became Director General of Engineers Ireland, a position he held until 2015. As such, he led the recovery and transformation of the organisation through the development and implementation of a new strategic direction, reversing a serious decline in membership numbers.  
The three independent members will serve a term of three years and will be eligible for re-appointment for a further term.

In addition to these independent members, the Board will comprise the four Union Officers and four appointments on the nomination of the Union's Provincial Councils.

Speaking about the appointments, the Union's CEO Pat Finn said: "The appointment of the Board is an important change in the way the Union is governed. It is a major step in enabling the Union to drive forward with its strategic objectives. In addition to the extensive knowledge of the game of golf which the Union's officials will continue to bring to bear on its decision-making, the new Board will also benefit from the expertise of the independent members."

The Board members in full:

  • Chairman: Iggy Ó Muircheartaigh
  • Union Officers:  Kevin McIntyre (President), Peter Sinclair (President Elect), Albert Lee (Hon. Secretary), Rollo McClure (Hon. Treasurer)
  • Branch Nominees: Jim McGovern (Chairman, Connacht), John Ferriter (Chairman, Leinster), John Moloughney (Chairman, Munster), John White (Hon. Secretary, Ulster)
  • Independent Members: Keith McGarry, John Power

According to a profile of O Muircheartaigh (Moriarty as Bearla) published by The Irish Times in 2001, the new Chairman preferred to be called Iggy rather than President, when he was in the top post in NUI Galway. In his youth, he was a talented 400m runner and later had academic postings with strong golfing connections to Tiger Woods' former alma mater Stanford University and to the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, not far from Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point.

O Muircheartaigh may have spent most of his formative years in Dublin, and more than 30 years in Galway, but he remains at heart a Kerryman. Kerry is where he spent all of his childhood holidays and it's where his parents come from. The family were Irish-speaking and the young O Muircheartaigh attended Colaiste Mhuire, in Dublin's Parnell Square. After UCD and a stint at the Central Statistics Office, he took himself off first to the University of Manchester and then to the University of Glasgow, where his PhD topic was computer-aided medical diagnosis. Ground-breaking stuff then, what took him three years to develop could be done, today, in just one-and-a-half seconds on a laptop, he says. A major regret for Galway's new president is that he missed qualifying for the Mexico City Olympics in 1968 by just point-four of a second. He ran his 400-metre race in 47.8 seconds. During his undergraduate and postgraduate years, however, he managed to represent Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish and even British universities at international athletic events. Unsurprisingly, he's a bit of a sports fanatic, but these days confines his participation to golf, tennis and daily gym workouts.
It was during his time in Scotland that he met Rosaleen, his wife. They came to Galway in 1970, simply because he'd got a job lecturing in statistics there. It was, he says, one of the best moves he ever made. Galway proved a great place to live, the university was small, with only 3,000 students (there are now 11,000), had a long tradition of scholarship and excellence and, according to O Muirearchtaigh, he particularly appreciated the Irish language's special place in the UCG ethos. In 1972, O Muireachtaigh helped to established the UCG teachers' section of the Workers' Union of Ireland (now SIPTU) in the college. By 1980, he was an elected staff representative on the UCG governing body, "working for change in the structures of the university but making little progress", he says. It was his years on the governing body that encouraged him to stand for election as registrar in 1998. His platform? "Changing structures to give people greater involvement in decision-making and supporting the primacy of the academic mission." It proved a good move. Being registrar "taught me about the academic operation of the college. The two years I spent as registrar were a tremendous preparation for becoming president," O Muircheartaigh says.
The Galway president has worked abroad on two occasions. In the early 1970s, he won a Fulbright Scholarship to Stanford University and, a decade later, an Academy of Sciences research associateship to the US Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. The O Muircheartaighs nearly didn't come back from the last assignment. "If I'd been younger, I would have stayed. Everything was brilliant. The research was exceptional, the people were friendly, the climate was outstanding and the place was beautiful." As president, O Muircheartaigh says, his aim is to enhance the university's standing in research and scholarship, which in turn will benefit the quality of teaching. "What distinguishes universities from other colleges is their commitment to research and scholarship," he says. That's what makes working in a university special. It's not just about teaching and passing on knowledge - although that's important. It's also about searching for boundaries and going beyond them."