Does it matter if Pearse Doherty is a civil engineer or not?

Pearse Doherty is not a civil engineer, or so various Sinn Féin websites now say, having been hasilty amended following an Irish Daily Mirror story about the Donegal TD’s qualifications, but does it matter?Newswhip logo

Doherty got into a spot of bother last week, when the tablid pointed out the Donegal Sinn Féin website identified him as a civil engineer. The same title was repeated on several other party websites, and on Pearse’s byelection literature, as shown in the image opposite.

Image: Pearse Doherty electon literature
‘A civil engineer by profession’ – Pearse Doherty electon literature

Here’s what Doherty had to say about the story on on Highland Radio when the topic was raised by morning phone-in host Shaun Doherty:

“I’ve always been up front. I told people in many interviews that I left college after two years.
“I went into work in the field, I moved back to Donegal. I actually enrolled in LYIT in Letterkenny. I didn’t complete the course because I stood in the general election of 2002.
“The course I was doing was civil engineering, after two years of that course you get a qualification of civil engineering technician, I graduated with that.
“Where this arise from is a website … my profile has that I’m a civil engineer. I am a civil engineer technician.
“We’re in the heat of an election campaign, our opponents are going to blow it out of all proportion.”

That seems pretty straightforward. Doherty, had he been asked about his qualifications, would have said he was a civil engineering technician.

As it happens, Doherty asked about his qualifications by Pat Kenny during a byelection appearance on Frontline. You can see his answer below.

“I’m a civil engineer,” he told the veteran broadcaster.

So what?

As a commenter pointed out when I blogged about this on my personal website at the weekend, “anybody can call themselves an engineer, regardless of competency learned in the field or on campus. Pearse is well entitled to call himself an engineer, despite his hesitant style of delivery.”

The only protected term in Ireland is Chartered Engineer, which is awarded by Engineers Ireland to members, based on a combination of qualifications and experience. A minimum of four years experience is necessary.

That of course raises the question, why didn’t Doherty simply say he was entitled to call himself an engineer when the Mirror story appeared, instead of scrubbing every Sinn Féin website which called him a civil engineer?

So does it matter? Doherty isn’t even the first politician to get into hot water over claims about his educational qualifications. Bertie Ahern faced similar questions in his day, and swatted them aside just as easily.

But politicians frequently decry the lack of trust in their profession, and the decline of civic life. Trouble is, trst is a two-way street. If Pearse Doherty – or any other TD – can’t be straight over his professional qualifications, they why should voters believe anything else they say?

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