Michael Colgan: ‘The purpose of this statement is to apologise to any person I’ve hurt’

Ex-artistic director of Gate says ‘behaviour should not be equated with sexual crimes’

The former artistic director of the Gate Theatre Michael Colgan has responded to allegations of abuse of power and inappropriate behaviour and apologised for his "misjudged behaviour".

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".

Mr Colgan said “I already knew I was not politically correct” and said 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”.

An Irish Times investigation last weekend contained allegations by seven former workers at the Gate of inappropriate behaviour against Mr Colgan, including sexualised comments and bullying inside and outside the workplace.

It followed a blog post by theatre director and actor Grace Dyas in which she accused Mr Colgan of directing remarks of a sexual nature at her during an encounter in the Oak Bar on Dame Street after the launch of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2016.

Three-decade spell

Mr Colgan left his role as director of the Gate in March following an acclaimed three-decade spell at the helm of the theatre.

His statement on Sunday was the first occasion in which he has publicly addressed claims being made about him by former co-workers.

Gaye Cunningham, an adjudication officer with the Workplace Relations Commission, has been appointed by the Gate to conduct an investigation into the allegations and is due to report to the board in January.

In an open letter published on Wednesday, Ms Dyas said any current member of the Gate board should step aside before any process can be truly impartial.

It followed criticisms of an initial attempt by the Gate to establish a confidential email account for anyone who wished to communicate about any adverse experiences in relation to Mr Colgan.

The National Women’s Council of Ireland has called for an independent investigation into the conduct and behaviour of Mr Colgan during his tenure at the theatre.

Management at the theatre have sought to reassure accusers that the independent expert will be the only person with access to the email account.

Elsewhere in his statement , Mr Colgan said he believed he had been a “good boss” who was “liked by all the staff”, but in hindsight, acknowledged there were moments of “misjudged” and “ebullient” behaviour.

‘Unseen problem’

He further blamed the “unseen problem of overlap between work and play”.

Mr Colgan added: “I see things differently now… There is no doubt that if I could re-live my time there [at the theatre], I would act differently.”

He also said he would have enforced a stronger workplace code of ethics had the issue become apparent to him during his tenure at the Gate.

Speaking on RTÉ radio this morning, Arts Council director Orlaith McBride said Mr Colgan’s apology is “curious”, also serving as a defence of his own behaviour.

“For me it’s a curious apology. 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 Marian Finucane.

Ms McBride spoke of an element of disempowerment that comes from working with people in power, and put forward a list of considerations that often go through the minds of employees when contemplating making a complaint: “Will that damage my reputation? I’m not working with her, she’s a troublemaker, will I get a gig with that director again if I say ‘Stop, no, I’m not comfortable with this behaviour’?”

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 Catherine Zappone told the RTÉ Week in Politics programme that the events of recent weeks have provided a “watershed moment”.

“Certainly, any international and national experience inclusive of the experience of the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and other rape crisis centres throughout Ireland give credence to that reality that any form of sexual harassment is a form of sexual violence,” she said.