Tuesday 20 November 2018

RTE insists any formal complaints against staff 'dealt with at the time'

Sex-pests are still working in RTÉ - Gabriel Byrne

Gabriel Byrne: ‘People accepted the behaviour as normal in the 1970s’. Photo: PA
Gabriel Byrne: ‘People accepted the behaviour as normal in the 1970s’. Photo: PA
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Actor Gabriel Byrne has claimed RTÉ has a history of pervasive 'abject sexism' and believes some current employees of the broadcaster could be described as "sex pests".

The Hollywood star worked on RTÉ series 'The Riordans' from 1978 to 1979 and spoke of the derogatory way many women, including one of his former girlfriends, were treated in that era in RTÉ.

Byrne recalled how two producers once took bets on who would sleep with a new female employee 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.

Sexually inappropriate acts went unchallenged, Byrne said, as many people accepted the behaviour as normal.

"People just kind of laughed and kind of said 'There he is doing his thing again'.

"One of those guys made...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, saying it was simply "common knowledge".

"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."

Yesterday, when contacted by the Irish Independent, an RTÉ spokesperson said it had strict guidelines in place to deal with harassment complaints. "Any formal complaints by RTÉ staff during the period referred to by Gabriel Byrne would have been dealt with at the time," the spokesperson said.

"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."

Byrne spoke candidly about sexism in the entertainment industry on 'Today with Sean O'Rourke'.

The actor personally knows several Hollywood figures who have been accused of sexually inappropriate acts. He said he had heard "vague rumours" about Harvey Weinstein, who is now facing multiple allegations of rape and sexual abuse.

"I had a vague idea that there were things that went on behind closed doors. The problem is, they were rumours.

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

Byrne also worked with Kevin Spacey who, like Weinstein, faces several allegations.

Irish Independent

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