Thursday 22 February 2018

National Museum board 'urgently examining' sex pest case

The National Museum in Dublin. Photo: Tom Burke
The National Museum in Dublin. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The board of the National Museum is examining "as a matter of priority" the circumstances surrounding a sexual harassment case at the institution.

The move comes after the Irish Independent revealed a member of staff at the museum who sexually harassed a colleague was allowed keep his job despite concerns about his behaviour towards female staff.

The National Museum has refused to comment on child protection concerns arising from the case, in which the man admitted during a human resources investigation to fantasising after seeing "tall schoolgirls" in the museum café.

It is unclear what action, if any, was taken against him following the probe and he remains employed by the museum. The woman, whose complaint was upheld, no longer works there after her contract was not renewed.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Arts Minister Heather Humphreys said the minister took allegations in relation to staff at the museum "extremely seriously".

"Senior officials in the department have spoken to the chair of the museum in relation to the reports of sexual harassment," the spokesperson said.

"On foot of these discussions, the minister has been informed that the board is examining this issue as a matter of priority."

Read more: Shane Phelan: Something is truly toxic when 40pc of staff are at risk of depression

The spokesperson pointed out the current board has been in place since June 2016 and the sexual harassment case pre- dated its appointment.

However, despite expressing concern, the spokesperson said Ms Humphreys would not be intervening directly in the issue.

She said the museum was an autonomous body and the minister could not interfere in a human resources issue.

The museum has been dogged with staffing issues in recent years.

A report on staff well-being last November found that a fifth of people working there believed they were "often" or "always" subjected to bullying.

The minister's spokesperson said the museum's chairperson Catherine Heaney had advised the department the board had "prioritised addressing legacy staff and HR issues".

She said the minister had been assured steps were being taken to address the issues highlighted in the well-being survey.

Additional support would be provided to the museum by the department if it is required.

A series of questions posed to the museum yesterday went unanswered.

It remains unclear whether any restrictions were placed on the staff member who was the subject of the harassment complaint. It is also unclear if the board which was in place at the time of the complaint was informed of the investigation findings.

The museum has previously said it took all complaints seriously, but would not comment on individual cases.

Irish Independent

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