Plan to tackle Oireachtas bullying and sexual harassment

Politicians have been warned in a new guide that they must ‘conduct themselves to the highest ethical standards’

A “dignity and respect” helpline is being set up at Leinster House to which politicians and staff will be able to report cases of bullying and sexual harassment in the Oireachtas.

Details of the planned helpline are included in a new policy which sets out actions to be taken where complaints are made.

“While members have a particular commitment to uphold the highest standards of behaviour as public representatives, they can also be vulnerable to vexatious claims,” the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission document says.

“The principles of natural justice and fair procedures underpin the culture of dignity and respect in the workplace, and will apply to everyone.”


All political parties have formally adopted the new policy.

Separately, an online survey was circulated on Monday to TDs, Senators and staff across the organisation to help determine the extent to which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment may be an issue within the Oireachtas.

In the new guide politicians have been warned that they must “conduct themselves to the highest ethical standards”.

“While parliament is not unique with respect to issues of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment, elected members should be held to the highest standard of behaviour due to the role of parliament in society.

“In politics there must be a high level of tolerance for debate and argument, over and above what would be considered acceptable within the workplace. However the same tolerance cannot be applied to politicians’ treatment of staff and employees, who should have the same right to respectful treatment as any other employees. Members must, therefore, conduct themselves to the highest ethical standards.”

Politicians and staff are being urged to attend at least one information seminar on the new policy.

First point of contact

The “dignity and respect” helpline will be available for politicians, political parties and their staff. The helpline “will be a first point of contact for anyone experiencing issues relating to bullying, harassment or sexual harassment”.

The policy says that a person who believes they are being bullied or sexually harassed should firstly tell the person they are complaining about that their behaviour is unacceptable and try to resolve it informally.

“The informal approach does not propose to diminish the issue or the effect on individuals. Rather, the objective of the informal procedure is to allow scope for resolving issues quickly, effectively and with a minimum of distress to parties.”

If the informal approach does not work, a formal complaint will be investigated.

“If the complaint is not upheld but the complainant is found to have acted in good faith, the employer may take measures to support both the complainant and the respondent.

“Where a complaint is not upheld and is found not to have been made in good faith, the complainant may be the subject of disciplinary action.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times