Saturday 22 July 2017

TD says report on museum sex pest 'destroyed' by someone in Department of Arts

Heather Humphreys photographed by Steve Humphries.
Heather Humphreys photographed by Steve Humphries.
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A report about a member of staff at the National Museum who sexually harassed a colleague was destroyed by someone in the Department of Arts, the chairman of an Oireachtas committee has claimed.

Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín also claimed no record was kept by the museum of a protected disclosure by another member of staff.

The explosive allegations, which are being disputed by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, are the latest twist in the series of controversies which have engulfed the museum in recent months.

They come just weeks after the Irish Independent revealed a male staff member who sexually harassed a female colleague was allowed to keep his job, while the victim's contract was not renewed. Separate allegations of widespread bullying also emerged last month.

The museum's board launched an urgent review of "human resources issues" in January.

Speaking in the Dáil, Mr Tóibín, who chairs the Oireachtas Arts Committee, said the man at the centre of the sexual harassment case was now "on administrative leave".

Peadar Tóibin
Peadar Tóibin

The TD said it was his understanding a report in relation to the man was held by the museum but a copy sent to the department had been destroyed.

"A protected disclosure was made to the National Museum but there is no record of a protected disclosure on the department's records or on the National Museum's records," he said.

However, Ms Humphreys insisted her department had never received an allegation of inappropriate sexual behaviour. She also said she was not aware of any protected disclosures.

Speaking in Irish, the Sinn Féin TD told the Dáil there had been "many allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying and heavy-hand management".

"The serious thing is that these things happened in a State organisation and while a State worker was suffering, nothing was being done by the Government," he said.

Mr Tóibín also said information provided by Ms Humphreys was at odds with information he received from staff at the museum. In response, Ms Humphreys insisted she had not supplied anybody with incorrect information.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, she accused Mr Tóibín of "grandstanding" and treating human resources issues at the museum as "a political football".

She also said Mr Tóibín had not produced any evidence.

"If he has evidence I would strongly urge him to act responsibly and produce it," she said.

The Sinn Féin TD insisted he was standing over the allegations. He also urged the minister to get directly involved "to fix issues" at the museum following reports of bullying and High Court settlements with former staff.

But Ms Humphreys said: "The board and management of the museum has statutory responsibility for HR issues. The minister of the day does not."

In a statement the museum said it did not comment on or disclose details pertaining to individual staff members, for legal and privacy purposes.

It also said no protected disclosures had been made to the museum.  "Correspondence was received relating to inter-staff matters, but this correspondence does not legally constitute a protected disclosure," it said.

"However, we can confirm that all members of staff involved were afforded their full legal rights."

The statement added: "A new board was appointed to the National Museum of Ireland in July 2016. Since its appointment, the board has been engaged in a master planning process to ensure that the museum develops to its fullest potential, with benefits accruing to both the general public and staff.

"The museum’s business plan for 2017 includes an appraisal of the museum’s processes and procedures.  The board has put in place a procurement process for a consultancy to audit the museum’s internal controls and systems.

"This procurement process is well advanced: part of this brief is to undertake an audit of the museum’s HR function and procedures, and this will be undertaken in the coming weeks.

"The matter of HR – as agreed by the board at its January meeting - will be discussed at its upcoming meeting on Thursday, March 16."

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Also in this section