A number of women who allege they have been the victims of “abuse of power” at the hands of former Gate Theatre director Michael Colgan have said they will not avail of a confidential email address offered by the theatre to detail their experiences.
The women say they do not have confidence in the impartiality of the theatre’s current board.
The Arts Council said it “welcomed” the fact that allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour are being discussed openly across the wider arts sector in the wake of the claims about Mr Colgan. It said it is committed to a culture of respect, dignity, fairness, and equality in the workplace and expected all organisations it funded to respect and uphold the law in that regard.
The brief press release made no direct reference to Mr Colgan, who is report-edly set to issue a statement.
Arts Council director Orlaith McBride said she was “absolutely shocked” when she read a newspaper report which carried allegations from several women, former employees of the Gate, of sexual harassment and bullying by Mr Colgan.
“From the Arts Council’s perspective, we need to ensure that all employees feel safe and protected in the workplace,” she told RTÉ.
In recent days, the Gate offered a confidential email address which anyone who had been in its employment could contact to talk about any “concerns”. It said it intended to appoint an independent HR adviser to handle any issues raised.
This has not been accepted by a number of alleged victims. Among those to have gone public with allegations against Mr Colgan, is artist Grace Dyas, who claimed he told her she had lost so much weight that “I’d almost have sex with you” and that when she pulled him up on the comment, he called her a liar and a pig.
On her blog last night, she and six other women wrote that, in the past week, they had all shared “accounts of their experiences of abuse of power by Michael Colgan, former director of the Gate Theatre, publicly”.
“We welcome this attempt by the Gate to communicate with potential victims of abuse of power, but we question the independence of any process that is funded and administered directly by the Gate,” they wrote.
“Michael Colgan sat on the board of the Gate for many years. This undermines our confidence in the impartiality of the current board. We will not email our experiences in their written form to the Gate using their confidential email address.”
While also welcoming Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s remarks that it would be right and appropriate for people who have been sexually harassed to come forward, they took issue with him saying there needed to be an “understanding that an allegation is an allegation and people have the right to due process and the right to have their good name protected”.
“We remind An Taoiseach, his ministers, and those in positions of power that due process also ought to protect Irish women’s human and constitutional rights to bodily integrity and liberty, that equality is protected by law, and we call on them to take meaningful action to restore trust in these processes,” they wrote.
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