Arts Council urges women to engage in Gate investigation

Complaints of sexualised comments, inappropriate touching made against Colgan

One former employee told The Irish Times Michael Colgan remarked he could ‘talk down to anyone with a womb,’ while another said he slapped her on the backside so hard it left a red mark. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

One former employee told The Irish Times Michael Colgan remarked he could ‘talk down to anyone with a womb,’ while another said he slapped her on the backside so hard it left a red mark. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

The Director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride is urging the women who have made allegations against the artistic director of the Gate Theatre Michael Colgan to engage with the independent investigation announced by the theatre last week.

“Now is the time for the investigation to take its course,” she told Newstalk Breakfast.

On Sunday, Mr Colgan wrote an article for the Sunday Independent newspaper stating he was “deeply distressed” that there were moments in his career where “through misjudged behaviour, I caused upset to some of my co-workers”.

He was writing in response to claims by seven former workers at the Gate of inappropriate behaviour including highly sexualised comments, frequent inappropriate touching and bullying inside and outside the workplace.

Earlier this month, one former employee told The Irish Times Mr Colgan remarked he could “talk down to anyone with a womb”, while another said he slapped her on the backside so hard it left a red mark.

Ms McBride said the board of the Gate Theatre had responded quickly when the women in question had voiced their dissatisfaction with the initial plan for the investigation to be carried out by an internal HR member of staff.

Last Thursday the Gate Theatre announced that Gaye Cunningham, an adjudication officer with the Workplace Relations Commission, will conduct an independent review of the issue.

In a statement the theatre’s board said she would deal, confidentially and transparently, with any complaints, “having regard to allowing for due process to all parties concerned.”

Ms McBride said that Ms Cunningham’s credentials were excellent and she urged the six women to engage with the process.

She said she was not aware of a reluctance on the part of the six women to cooperate with Ms Cunningham.

“There is a need to trust the process, to allow those voices to be heard.

“I genuinely believe it is an independent process.”

Ms McBride said she did not know Ms Cunningham personally, but said her credentials indicated she was completely independent.

“This is the process, the only process in place.”

Ms McBride added that the Arts Council is working with all levels of the theatre sector to ensure that an incident like this does not happen again.

“People in positions of power must know the limits of their behaviour.”

She added that because of the “gig culture” of work in the theatre sector many workers feel they are in a very vulnerable position and that they do not have the protection of the law.

“They do,” Ms McBride said.