Establish external inquiry into sexual harassment claims at Gate, say FF

Niamh Smyth says harassment allegations are ‘major threat’ to State’s artistic reputation

The Gate has set up a confidential email address for anyone who wishes to communicate concerns about experiences they had.

The Gate has set up a confidential email address for anyone who wishes to communicate concerns about experiences they had.

 

An external inquiry should be established into allegations of sexual harassment and bullying by former Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan, Fianna Fáil has said.

The comment by the party’s spokesperson on the arts, Niamh Smyth comes after seven women who worked at the theatre spoke to The Irish Times alleging abuse and harassment by Mr Colgan.

The allegations levelled at Mr Colgan by ex-employees include frequent inappropriate touching, highly sexualised comments and workplace bullying as well as threats to fire staff members who objected to his actions.

Mr Colgan did not respond to repeated attempts by The Irish Times to contact him this week, or to a detailed list of questions.

Ms Smyth said it is not enough for the Gate itself to investigate the claims of those who have spoken out with allegations against Mr Colgan.

The Gate has set up a confidential email address for anyone who wishes to communicate concerns about experiences they had.

It said it would also appoint an independent professional to look into the issues raised. None of a group of women who have spoken to The Irish Times on the issue in recent days have made use of this.

Ms Smyth, a TD for Cavan-Monaghan, said an independent investigation must be established and must be done in a “format people can have faith in and can trust”.

“The only way to do that is from the outside in,” she said. Ms Smyth said the allegations “of unacceptable behaviour towards female staff members at Dublin’s Gate Theatre” have “rocked to the core the Irish artistic community, and are a major threat to our reputation as a leading artistic nation.

“Every single one of these allegations needs to be investigated, and the women who have made these very serious allegations must be supported and offered counselling and advice.”

In a statement, Minister for Culture Heather Humphreys said that human resources issues “at the Gate Theatre are a matter for the management and board”.

“It is up to each workplace to operate best practice on sexual harassment as outlined by law, and I understand that the management and board of the Gate Theatre are in the process of appointing an independent HR adviser to deal with any issues raised through a confidential email address,” the Minister said.

“I would strongly encourage any victims of sexual harassment at the Gate Theatre and any other organisation to come forward, although I remain acutely aware that it takes considerable courage to do so. They must feel empowered to tell their stories without fear of personal or professional recrimination. At the same time, this should be balanced with the right to due process of any alleged perpetrator.”

Opinion poll

Ms Humphreys is also to raise with the Arts Council the findings of an opinion poll of those in the arts community which found that 60 per cent of those surveyed have been bullied, but three in four did not report it because of a fear it would jeopardise work opportunities.

Ms Smyth said she was “appalled at these revelations”.

“As someone in regular contact with members of the Irish and international arts community, I am aware that our country’s reputation in the arts is exceptionally important, was hard earned and must be protected.

“There has to be a zero tolerance approach to bullying and sexual harassment of any kind and it is essential that any person who engages in such behaviour is held to account.

“The arts must be a safe space for everyone involved - that means for both practitioners and for administrators alike. Our objective must be to stamp out behaviour of this type, and ensure that no person, woman or man, feels harassed, intimidated or harassed in their workplace.”