Oireachtas urged to reveal number of bullying and harassment complaints made against politicians 

Oireachtas press office declined to release the information unless a Freedom of Information request was submitted, which means it could take months for the statistics to be revealed
Oireachtas urged to reveal number of bullying and harassment complaints made against politicians 

Fianna Fáil senator and chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus Fiona O’Loughlin said demanding that FOI requests be made can sometimes be used as a way of delaying the release of information. Picture: Gareth Chaney Collins

The Houses of the Oireachtas have been urged to reveal how many people have made complaints about being bullied or sexually harassed by TDs and senators in Leinster House.

The call comes after the Oireachtas press office declined to release the information unless a Freedom of Information request was submitted, which means it could take months for the statistics to be revealed.

The Irish Examiner had asked how many complaints of harassment, bullying and sexual harassment had been made in 2021 and 2020.

The press office was also asked how many of the complaints involved elected representatives.

A spokesperson for the Houses of the Oireachtas said: “As that information would not be in the public domain, the records should be sought by way of a Freedom of Information Request.” 

However, Fiona O’Loughlin, chair of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, said demanding that FOI requests be made can sometimes be used as a way of delaying the release of information.

“There should not have to be an FOI to get this information from the Houses of the Oireachtas,” she said.

“The information in terms of the number of numbers should be given out.

“There shouldn't have to be an FOI on it in the first place.

The Irish Examiner request for information comes as the Oireachtas has lodged a tender process for independent mediators to handle bullying and sexual harassment complaints against public representatives and parliamentary staff.

The three-year contract is worth more than €150,000 and could be extended subject to “ongoing need”.

Ms McLoughlin, who is a Fianna Fáil senator, said: “I agree with transparency, and it is public money, so there should be a sense of why this [mediation service] is needed and how it was spent.

 “When we're talking about anything to do with harassment, with bullying, we do need that sense of openness about it to be able to deal with it properly, and appropriately.

If it is going to be a hidden situation, it just makes it more difficult to deal with this and I would add my voice to any call for this information to be made public.” 

The most recent statistics on bullying and harassment in the Houses of the Oireachtas were made public in 2019.

Then, the Houses of the Oireachtas Parliamentary Workplace Survey revealed that of those surveyed, 76 people said they had been bullied, 40 said they had been harassed, and three said they had been sexually harassed.

The largest number of complaints — 47 — were against Oireachtas staff, 16 were against TDs and senators, and 13 were against staff employed by political parties.

Of the bullying complaints, 11 involved physical bullying, including unwelcome physical contact.

Some 16 instances involved social media posts, texts and emails.

Most of the bullying took place in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

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