Gate Theatre appoints expert to examine claims against Michael Colgan

Gaye Cunningham will contact women who have spoken out about their experiences

Michael Colgan: allegations have been made by several women of bullying and inappropriate behaviour by the former director of the Gate Theatre. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

Michael Colgan: allegations have been made by several women of bullying and inappropriate behaviour by the former director of the Gate Theatre. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

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The Gate Theatre has appointed an independent expert to investigate allegations of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power by its former director Michael Colgan.

Gaye Cunningham, an adjudication officer with the Workplace Relations Commission, will conduct an independent review of the issue. The Gate said she would deal, confidentially and transparently, with any complaints, “having regard to allowing for due process to all parties concerned”.

“It is essential to the Gate’s culture, and its future, that anyone who works for it, or has any dealings with it, is treated with respect and is not subjected to harassment, bullying or discrimination of any type,” the theatre added. “We have listened to the views of the people who have come forward in recent days, as well as various other stakeholders, and taken on board the concerns and feedback expressed.”

Ms Cunningham will begin immediately and report back to the board of the Gate in January 2018. Her final report will also be provided, for information, to the Arts Council. She will contact any current or former staff members who have spoken out on the record. Anybody else who wants to come forward with concerns can email her directly, at cunninghamconfidential@outlook.ie.

Confidential email

The Gate says that any emails already sent to the confidential email address it set up last week will be seen only by Ms Cunningham and that the account will then be closed.

“Ms Cunningham has been a rights commissioner since 2008 and will bring to bear her considerable workplace-relations experience to ensure the Gate addresses any failings of the past and to make recommendations to ensure the Gate will become a place where artistic endeavour can flourish in a safe environment operating to the highest possible standard,” it said. “We are fully committed to taking the necessary steps to deal professionally and compassionately with the issues arising.”

Several women who have spoken out publicly about their experiences have questioned the independence of any process that is funded and administered directly by the Gate, and have said they would not use the confidential email address.

In an open letter published on Wednesday, the theatremaker Grace Dyas, who was the first person to come forward with allegations against Mr Colgan, said all members of the board who had served with him while he was on the board, “or who had close personal ties with Michael”, needed to step down before any process could be truly impartial.

A number of other women have also published allegations on Ms Dyas’s blog and in The Irish Times of being bullied and sexually harassed by Mr Colgan.

Mr Colgan did not respond to repeated attempts by The Irish Times to contact him last week, or to a detailed list of questions. He has yet to release a public statement on the allegations.

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