Leinster House workers to be surveyed on harassment

Questions will relate to experiences of inappropriate behaviour and bullying

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy met the Ceann Comhairle and said he was very supportive of the idea and of the need for a survey. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy met the Ceann Comhairle and said he was very supportive of the idea and of the need for a survey. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The commission which oversees the Oireachtas has signalled it is willing to conduct a survey to determine the incidence of sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour and bullying among those working in Leinster House.

The commission, chaired by Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl, agreed last month to draft a statement of principles on dignity and respect in the workplace, which includes a procedure for making complaints.

However, the Women’s Caucus, chaired by Green Party TD Catherine Martin, said that such a statement of principles would not be effective without a baseline of data and evidence. To to that, the caucus argued, a survey would be required.

Ms Martin and the deputy chair of the caucus, Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, met the Ceann Comhairle earlier this week on the issue. Ms Martin on Thursday said Mr Ó Fearghaíl was very supportive of the idea and of the need for a survey.

“We had a meeting earlier this week and presented that argument and the Ceann Comhairle seems very willing to take the idea of a survey on board,” she said. “We think it should be conducted by an independent expert, who should have the remit to draw up the questions that should be asked.”

Specific questions

Ms Martin said that similar surveys have been carried out in other parliaments such as Westminster and the Scottish parliament in Holyrood. She said the questionnaire prepared in Scotland was instructed, with very specific questions asking employees if they had experienced harassment, bullying or inappropriate behaviour within a time frame.

The anonymous surveys would allow the commission and caucus to learn of the incidence of such behaviour. They would be conducted among all people who work within the campus, including the media.

Ms Martin said she would like the survey to be conducted by the end of the year.

“It would it would be nice to launch something like this in the centenaries of women’s suffrage,” she said.

Earlier this year, allegations of bullying and sexism were made by Fine Gael Senator Catherine Noone against a colleague in the parliamentary party. Ms Noone told a meeting of TDs and senators she had been subjected to harassment by a male member of the party.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar later confirmed an investigation had begun. The matter was resolved internally within the party to the satisfaction of Ms Noone. It is understood that no disciplinary action was taken on foot of the complaint.