Colgan apology meets with negative response by accusers

Former Gate Theatre artistic director wrote that he was not aware of distress he caused

Michael  Colgan: in an article in the ‘Sunday Independent’ he said: “I already knew I was not politically correct” and he “often sacrificed proper conduct for a punch line”.  Photograph:   Matt Kavanagh

Michael Colgan: in an article in the ‘Sunday Independent’ he said: “I already knew I was not politically correct” and he “often sacrificed proper conduct for a punch line”. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

The apology of former Gate Theatre artistic director Michael Colgan in response to accusations of bullying and sexual harassment was met with scepticism by several of his accusers on Sunday.

In an article in the Sunday Independent, Mr Colgan said he was “deeply distressed” at the realisation he had caused upset to co-workers and he sincerely apologised to “anyone who was ever made to feel upset”.

It was the first time Mr Colgan addressed the matter since allegations first surfaced online three weeks ago.

Mr Colgan said “I already knew I was not politically correct” and he “often sacrificed proper conduct for a punch line”.

He made a clear distinction between this “misjudged behaviour” and alleged sexual crimes.

“My behaviour should not be equated with sexual crimes. I take serious issue with much of the recent press and social media references to me.”

He continued: “We are living in a climate where to be accused is now enough to be deemed guilty.”

Sexualised comments

The Irish Times reported in detail more than a week ago on allegations by seven former workers at the Gate of inappropriate behaviour against Mr Colgan, including sexualised comments and bullying inside and outside the workplace.

Theatre director Grace Dyas, whose blog post set off the avalanche of allegations against Mr Colgan, said she welcomed the statement but added: “I think he needs to think a bit more about his behaviour.”

She told The Sunday Show on TV3: “I believe that he was made aware by several people over the course of his tenure that his behaviour was inappropriate.”

Mary [not her real name], a former employee of the Gate, said it was “absurd” that Mr Colgan did not know what effect he was having on his staff. She said when she quit she made it very clear to management that she was leaving because of him.

‘People in tears’

“I don’t know how he couldn’t be aware of what he was doing when he had people in tears on a daily basis.”

Three of the women who spoke to The Irish Times said they sent emails to management about Mr Colgan’s behaviour, which were seen by Mr Colgan. One woman said she sent a letter to senior Gate management stating she was quitting specifically because of Mr Colgan’s actions.

Arts Council director Orlaith McBride said Mr Colgan’s apology was “curious”.

“There’s an apology on one side, and then on the other side there’s a defence of the position or the behaviour – ‘I was not politically correct; I knew I wasn’t politically correct’,” she told RTÉ Radio.

She referred to the Gate affair as a “line in the sand” in regards to appropriate workplace behaviours, and said the claims must now be properly investigated.

“The people in senior positions in organisations cannot behave in this way, but they need to know that it is not acceptable. People in positions that are much more vulnerable across any sector – they need to be empowered to say ‘Stop’,” she said.

Elsewhere, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said that events of recent weeks had been “a watershed moment” and that any form of sexual harassment was a form of sexual violence.