In an email circulated to staff members Mr McGonagle stated that his reasons for stepping down were “personal”, and that his time as director helped initiate a programme of “necessary change”.
Mr McGonagle succeeded Colm O’Briain as director in 2008, and under his watch the college began an academic partnership with University College Dublin. During this process the college transitioned from being a recognised college of the National University of Ireland to a recognised college of UCD.
Though degrees for NCAD are now validated by UCD the college has maintained its location in Thomas Street. Talks regarding a possible merger between the two institutions were entered into under McGonagle’s tenure, but never came to fruition.
More recently the management of NCAD had come under intense criticism from both staff and students over its accounting practices and provision of student services. A poll of staff found that 94% of NCAD SIPTU members supported a vote of no confidence in the senior management. In March protesters occupied the college’s boardroom on McGonagle failed to meet with students who had raised concerns about student numbers and charges.
In a letter presented to McGonagle, the group outlined their demands over increasing student numbers, the lack of resources for the graduate shows and the costs associated with seeing the college doctor amongst others.
This group then formalised into NCAD Student Action who continued to protest and spoke at a council meeting of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union. In May Trinity News covered the group’s march to the Department of Education and Skills, where they called for college management to produce accounts and allay their concerns. At the time, NCAD published a statement in response to the protest saying that the college was “going through a period of necessary changes in recent years in response to the Government’s reform agenda.”
The Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee also raised concerns over the situation with the college’s accounts, with member Robert Dowds TD stating that the situation was “probably one of the most scandalous situations with which the committee has been presented”.
In a statement NCAD Students’ Union said: ““As a well capable advocate of the art & design sector within our society and economy, Declan McGonagle has not articulated the impact of such massive cuts on the education and arts sectors, which yield such essential and tangible benefits for Ireland. The recent protests in NCAD were in direct reaction to mismanagement, unaccountability and miscommunication within the college, which Declan McGonagle has overseen. In his remaining tenure we hope, the Director will live up to his assurances for a more cooperative and genuine relationship with staff and students.”
Before taking up his post at NCAD, Mr McGonagle was director of the Irish Museum of Modern Art from 1990 to 2001, and had been shortlisted for the prestigious Turner Prize while director of the Orchard Gallery in Derry.
The recently appointed Board of NCAD expressed that “Professor McGonagle – whose career is dedicated to the furtherance of the arts on the island of Ireland – every success in his future endeavours.”
The Board also added that in due course the recruitment process for a new Director would be put in place, with transitional arrangements also due to be put in place to ensure there is no disruption to the college’s work.