Wednesday 16 January 2019

Colgan managed Gate 'by fury and threats', says report

Michael Colgan said job needed someone with a big personality. Photo: Arthur Carron
Michael Colgan said job needed someone with a big personality. Photo: Arthur Carron
Melanie Finn

Melanie Finn

Former artistic director Michael Colgan is alleged to have a "case to answer" when it comes to his behaviour during his lengthy tenure at the Gate Theatre.

A hard-hitting independent report by workplace relations expert Gaye Cunningham has alleged that he "managed by fury and threats and fear", and a culture of "bullying" prevailed.

It stated that he used profane language, and at times called women c***s and made young female staff cry, whereupon he would say: "I'm glad you cried, that shows you care."

The same report alleges that he "put himself in too close proximity to staff", asked personal questions, rubbed backs and put his hand on people's knees while typing.

He also made comments of a sexual nature to actresses, the 22-page document has claimed.

It said that a culture evolved over the years of an "omnipotent ruler" who did not like to be challenged and retaliated if confronted, dropping people from invitation lists if they fell out of favour with him. Mr Colgan has "strongly rejected" these allegations, particularly those made anonymously. He said that it was not a case of "tip of the iceberg" where further claims may be made.

In his right to reply, contained in the report, he denies shouting at staff and said his job needed someone with a "big personality".

But he said that he regrets not putting a process in place for dealing with any complaints. He accepted that he should have had a code of ethics and rules of conduct in place at the theatre.

Ms Cunningham interviewed 56 people for her report, including eight current and former board of management members. It was initiated after a number of women came forward with allegations at the end of last year.

It concluded that the former artistic director, who was there 33 years, had a "case to answer" in relation to dignity at work issues, abuse of power and inappropriate behaviour.

The Gate is now under new management, but the report contains 14 recommendations - including comprehensive training for all managers.

In a statement, the venue reiterated its "unreserved apology" to those who experienced the behaviours detailed in the review.

Chairperson Peter Crowley said he acknowledged that the board had an onus to be more aware of the culture prevailing in the theatre over time, and he stated its commitment to implementing Ms Cunningham's recommendations in full.

Irish Independent

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