Gate Theatre evidence sought by Oireachtas committee chair

Taoiseach says allegations should be investigated ‘in the first instance’ by theatre

Chairman of the Oireachtas culture committee Peadar Tóibín is seeking support from the committee to hear from the Arts Council, the actors’ union Equity, and the chair of the Gate’s board. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Chairman of the Oireachtas culture committee Peadar Tóibín is seeking support from the committee to hear from the Arts Council, the actors’ union Equity, and the chair of the Gate’s board. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Senior Gate Theatre representatives may be called to give evidence before an Oireachtas committee in response to allegations its former director, Michael Colgan, bullied and sexually harassed employees.

Chairman of the Oireachtas culture committee Peadar Tóibín confirmed he is seeking support from the committee to hear from the Arts Council, the actors’ union Equity, the chair of the Gate’s board and the Department of Arts in response to the claims.

“The Minister [for Arts Heather Humphreys] and the department cannot micro-manage each organisation, however she and her department have a moral responsibility to ensure that the conditions exist that workers do not have to tolerate sexual harassment, and where perpetrators can be held to account,” he said.

Ms Humphreys confirmed the Government would not be launching an inquiry into the claims but said she would meet the Arts Council shortly.

“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.”

Confidential submissions

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said allegations of sexual harassment at the Gate should be investigated “in the first instance” by the theatre itself.

“I’m encouraged by the fact that more people are willing to come forward and tell their stories, because I think we can change the culture here if people feel they can come forward and tell their story in time that will change the culture around these issues.”

Mr Varadkar also said it was important to realise that not all inappropriate behaviour amounted to bullying or sexual harassment.

Meanwhile, the director of the Arts Council Orlaith McBride said a “more robust” process headed by a senior counsel or retired judge was required by the Gate. Events had overtaken the announcement last Thursday that the theatre would appoint an independent HR professional to deal with confidential submissions.

Fianna Fáil spokeswoman on arts Niamh Smyth said there were serious questions about governance structures within the theatre.