Wednesday 24 April 2019

Gabriel Byrne says RTÉ 'sex pest' producer made his former girlfriend's life 'an absolute misery'

Gabriel Byrne
Gabriel Byrne
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Hollywood actor Gabriel Byrne has revealed that a former girlfriend of his was subjected to sexual harassment at RTÉ.

Byrne was speaking in the context of recent allegations of rape and sexual assault levelled at high profile Hollywood figures including Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey.

The 67-year-old star worked on RTÉ series The Riordans from 1978 to 1979 and told Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio 1 that he was dating an RTE employee at the time.

He revealed that she was subjected to sexual harassment and that two producers took bets on who would get a new female employee to bed first.

"The climate of abject sexism [in RTÉ], when I look back on it, was absolutely ridiculous, and there are still a few people walking around the place, who are regarded as, I don't know what you'd call them..., sex pests?" he said.

"People just kind of laughed and kind of said 'There he is doing his thing again'. One of those guys made [his girlfriend's] life an absolute misery through his sexual improprieties."

He added, "Nobody thought 'Oh My God', that this was really appalling behaviour. It was just the climate that it was at the time. Nobody questioned it."

The behaviour was not reported, he confirmed, adding, "It was common knowledge, and the idea that you would go to RTÉ and complain about it was never an option so like there was no such thing as go see the department of whatever, social relations, people just knew it."

Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects
Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Spacey in The Usual Suspects

Byrne also worked with disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein on three movies, including Into the West, and, asked whether or not he knew what was going on behind closed doors, he said, "I had a vague idea that there were things that went on behind closed doors. The problem is, they were rumours."

He revealed that he knew some of the actresses approached by Weinstein.

"It's still shocking to me today, even though I knew he was, as I said, a sleazebag," he added.

Byrne also worked with Kevin Spacey who, like Weinstein, faces several allegations, on The Usual Suspects in 1994. 

This week he revealed that production was halted for two days after 'allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour' against co-star Spacey.

"The filming itself was a really happy experience and the film went on to become... somebody told me it plays somewhere in the world like every day, but at that time we were making what we thought was a movie that might have moderate success," he said.

"There was a great camaraderie and hilarity on the set and then one day filming came to a halt, which is most unusual, because to lose a day's filming costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.  It's a big deal.  We didn't understand why and it later transpired something inappropriate sexually had happened and it involved Kevin. 

"I think we didn't really understand what was going on at the time.  It was only in retrospect the knowledge began to seep out."

Byrne was appearing on the programme to promote his documentary My Astonishing Self which airs tonight on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.

In a statement, RTÉ said:

"Any formal complaints by RTÉ staff during the period referred to by Gabriel Byrne would have been dealt with at the time. RTÉ takes its responsibility to all staff very seriously and provides a number of formal and informal channels through which staff can raise concerns about inappropriate behaviour and other issues."

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