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- 8 March 2006

Ireland’s leading research University, DCU, is establishing an Institute for Ethics led by a Professor with a significant research team of key academics and researchers.

The Chair and Institute are being set up to fill an obvious need for systematic study of ethics issues that have been raised by the series of tribunals established in recent years, as well as dealing with important ethics questions that have arisen from the greater complexity of life due to advances in technology and globalisation.

The President of DCU Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski said: “The tribunals are addressing basic questions about law and morality, personal and professional integrity in public life, honesty within business transactions, and the importance of truth in public discourse. They have revealed the existence of corruption within the planning process, varying levels of professional negligence in health care systems, and a lack of honesty within some sectors of the business community. All this has led to scepticism over the possibility of ethics conduct in some areas of public life, and confusion over where guidance in ethics will be found for the future.

“Meanwhile, developments in life sciences have raised ethics issues in human embryo and stem cell research, the human genome project, cloning and other areas. Ireland has lacked an appropriate forum for public discussion and debate on these complex sciences and the ethical issues involved. In recent times too on a global level, major ethics issues have arisen in journalism. The Institute will help fill a significant need in Irish life by addressing these fundamental questions,” he said.

At present in Ireland, these debates are largely carried out by specialist interest groups of academics or professionals who focus on one or two particular issues or areas. However, it is becoming increasingly obvious, that a more comprehensive approach is needed, where complex ethics issues can be examined from a variety of perspectives. The new DCU Institute for Ethics will be the first such institution, internationally, to be concerned with ethical decision-making across a wide range of disciplines, including business, technology, politics, media, healthcare, life sciences and education. It is part of the new strategic plan, Leadership through Foresight 2006-2008 which promised that DCU would play a leading role in raising awareness of ethics issues and stimulating public debate.

DCU has raised private funding for the establishment of the Chair and Institute, which will also draw on expertise available through its linked colleges of St. Patrick’s College and the Mater Dei Institute of Education.

The Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Eithne Guilfoyle said: “The University wants to produce graduates who are professional in their distinctive fields. At the core of this professionalism is a commitment to ensuring the presence of high ethical standards in theoretical and practical activities. While this emphasis on ethics has been traditionally associated with Nursing, Education, Business and Medicine, it should permeate all disciplines in the University and the Institute will help realise that objective.”

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.

There will be a new taught Masters programme in Applied Business and Social Ethics, as well as undergraduate modules in business, government and media ethics. Short courses on corporate governance, ethics in public office and media ethics will be made available to the business community, local government officers and members of professional organisations.

In Health and Communications, postgraduate and undergraduate programmes will be offered on social, ethical and legal issues in contemporary science as well as promoting Codes of Professional Ethics in Nursing, Teacher-Education, Business Studies, Communications and Journalism, Health Care and Medical Research. Short courses will also be developed for health care providers and professionals, institutes and others on the developments in Law, Ethics and Communication in Life Sciences.