Over 70 theatre women call for Gate inquiry to be replaced

Investigation of conduct of former director Michael Colgan ‘needs trust’ of alleged victims

The statement of solidarity by theatre women highlights gender inequality, exposed in a Waking the Feminists report published last year. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

The statement of solidarity by theatre women highlights gender inequality, exposed in a Waking the Feminists report published last year. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

The Gate Theatre’s inquiry into the conduct of its former director Michael Colgan should be abandoned and replaced by one which has the trust of alleged victims, more than 70 women theatre professionals have said.

Last November, the Gate appointed Workplace Relations Commission adjudication officer Gaye Cunningham to review allegations made against Mr Colgan by former colleagues. She is to report to the Gate board this month.

However, in a statement to The Irish Times, the group expressed “grave concerns” about the inquiry because it was set up and funded by the theatre.

Some of the existing board were in position for the final years of Mr Colgan’s reign before he retired in March 2017, and had permitted him “to sit alongside them on the board” – even though it is not considered best practice that managers should serve on boards, it says.

The inquiry was set up “against the express wishes” of the whistleblowers, who alleged Mr Colgan had bullied and humiliated them inside and outside of work and would frequently touch some of them inappropriately.

Safeguard

While praising Ms Cunningham, the group found it “difficult” to understand how the board could act upon her findings “with impartiality” or “with a real desire to understand and implement what is truly required” to safeguard people.

The statement was signed by 72 women – actors, writers, producers, directors, designers and stage managers – including Lynne Parker, Cathy Belton, Grace Dyas, Kate O’Toole, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Alison Spittle.

Mr Colgan wrote an article for the Sunday Independent last November in which he said he was “deeply distressed” he had caused upset, but argued his “misjudged behaviour” should not “be equated with sexual crimes”.

The current board is chaired by Peter Crowley, who was appointed in 2015. The other members are: David Bunworth, appointed in 2004; Jim Clery, appointed in 2014; Anne-Marie Curran, appointed 2017; James Morris, appointed in 2015 and Grace Smith, appointed in 2013.