Chubb, (Frederick) Basil (1921–2002), political scientist, was born 8 December 1921 in Branksome, near Bournemouth, Dorset, eldest son of Frederick John Bailey Chubb and Gertrude May Chubb. After early education at Bishop Wordsworth's School, Salisbury, he entered Merton College, Oxford, but interrupted his studies to enlist in the RAF during the second world war. Flying in a Lancaster bomber on raids over Germany, he was shot down in February 1944, and was a prisoner of war in the renowned Stalag Luft 3 for fifteen months, until V-E day; a notable escape of 100 prisoners was conducted through a tunnel dug from his hut. Returning to Oxford, he was awarded a BA in modern history (1946). One of many British academics recruited by TCD in the post-war years, he was initially hired to teach medieval history, but in 1948 was appointed lecturer in political science. He received an MA from TCD (1950), and a D.Phil. in politics from Oxford for a thesis on the financial committees of the British house of commons (published as The control of public expenditure (1952)). He was later awarded a Litt.D. by Trinity. A fellow of TCD from 1952, three years later he became reader, and in 1960 was appointed to the newly created chair of political science.
Chubb radically transformed the academic discipline of political science in Ireland, effecting a scholarly revolution akin to that accomplished in Irish historiography by his TCD colleague T. W. Moody (qv), and R. Dudley Edwards (qv) of UCD. Theretofore Irish political science had been largely confined to institutional description, the history of political thought, and assessment of the contributions of individual statesmen. Chubb pioneered the empirically based, analytical study of functioning contemporary political systems, pursuing methodology and applying conceptual frameworks developed in modern British and American political science. He cultivated fertile fields for such research in Ireland's complex network of state and semi-state bodies, cabinet system of government, written constitution, and electoral system of proportional representation by the single transferable vote.
Chubb's published corpus constitutes the seminal texts of modern Irish political science. He wrote two early books on fundamental aspects of the Irish political system: The government: an introduction to the cabinet system in Ireland (1961), later rewritten as Cabinet government in Ireland (1974); and The constitution of Ireland (1963), rewritten as The constitution and constitutional change in Ireland (1978). Combining analysis and survey of historical development, he developed in these works several key insights. He identified the distinction between the functions and powers of government as outlined in the constitution and as exercised in practice. Arguing that the Irish state adopted an ‘early-twentieth-century Westminster model’ of cabinet government, which remained essentially stable and immutable under successive Irish governments, he described the dominant role of cabinet ministers in the process of policy making and administration, and the extreme attenuation of the houses of the oireachtas. Addressing the dearth of basic social and political data on Ireland, he published A source book of Irish government (1964; rev. ed., 1983), a compilation of some 200 extracted documents of diverse genre: the 1922 and 1937 constitutions, constitutions of political parties, international treaties, law reports, statutes, white papers, parliamentary committee reports, speeches, departmental circulars. His foremost work was The government and politics of Ireland (1970). The first comprehensive, systematic study of the subject, it immediately became the standard text, utilised in universities in Ireland and worldwide by students of Irish government and politics, and of comparative government. In later editions (1982, 1992) Chubb addressed the impact on Irish government of membership in the European communities. In his last book, The politics of the Irish constitution (1991), he argued that the document, while congruent within the twenty-six-county polity of the 1930s, had not in subsequent years been modified adequately to address such factors as cultural change, EC membership, and the realities of Northern Ireland society.
Chubb's research thus encompassed the entire scope of policy making and administration in Ireland, outlining the relationships among the institutional framework of government, the total political system, and the broader political culture, all addressed within the context of universal processes of the exercise of power. His insights profoundly influenced fellow scholars, as well as politicians, civil servants, journalists, business people, and trade unionists.
Chubb served for many years from 1957 as TCD's bursar, working closely with the reforming provost Albert McConnell (qv) to modernise and professionalise college administration. His firm commitment to interdisciplinary enquiry arose from deep philosophical convictions regarding the integrated functioning of human society, and the multifaceted character of individual identity. These convictions informed his involvement in the creation (1970) of TCD's faculty of economic and social studies, within which he headed both the departments of political science (1970–91) and of social studies (1970–74), and worked successfully to establish a department of sociology. He enhanced cooperation between TCD and UCD, and contributed to the greater integration of TCD into the fabric of modern Irish life.
Chubb was convinced that the scholarly study of political systems should not confine itself within higher academia, but must actively engage with the practice of politics, identifying and addressing core issues, and enhancing the democratic character and functional efficiency of political institutions. Accordingly, he was closely involved from its inception in 1957 with the Institute of Public Administration (IPA), serving as its vice- president in 1958. Developing its role in the professional training of civil servants in both central and local government, he taught on IPA diploma courses, and brought civil servants on such courses into TCD to complete degrees. He was chairman of the IPA's research and publications committee; many of his own publications were issued under the IPA imprint. He was also a member of the Irish Management Institute.
A frequent commentator on current affairs on RTÉ radio and television, he was especially noted for his contribution to electoral coverage, offering considered assessments and quirky observations. He significantly influenced public opinion against the 1968 referendum to abolish proportional representation for the British electoral model. Among his other interventions, he stressed the democratic deficit in local government, argued forcefully for a new constitution, and campaigned for a freedom of information act.
From 1956 he was chairman of the board of governors of Sir Patrick Dun's hospital, and a member of the Irish Banks Arbitration Tribunal. As chairman from 1970 of the Employer–Labour Conference, he presided over the negotiation of successive national wage agreements. Respected as a mediator by both sides in labour relations, he helped resolve a series of industrial disputes, notably in the banks and transport. He was chairman of Comhairle na nOspidéal (the Hospitals’ Council) (1972–9), but clashed with Minister for Health Charles Haughey (1925–2006) over hospital planning, after which his appointment was not renewed.
Pithy in speech, cheerful in demeanour, with an occasionally acerbic humour, Chubb retained lifelong an English west-country burr to his accent. Elected MRIA in 1969, he was naturalised as an Irish citizen in the early 1970s. He indulged a passion for fishing during annual summer holidays in the west of Ireland. He married first (1946) Margaret Gertrude (‘Margot’) Rafter (1922–84); they had no children. A TCD librarian (1950–84), she became head of readers’ services. Chubb married secondly (1985) Orla Sheehan; they had one daughter. He lived at 19 Clyde Lane, Ballsbridge. A festschrift, Modern Irish democracy (1993), includes a brief biographical introduction, and a selected bibliography. He died 8 May 2002 in Dublin.