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Monday 18 December 2017

National Museum staff to be vetted by gardaí after sexual harassment claims

The National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

All staff and board members at the National Museum of Ireland will have to be Garda vetted, the institution's board has decided.

The move to retrospectively vet staff follows a series of controversies involving alleged bullying and sexual harassment.

It comes as museum director Raghnall Ó Floinn and chairperson Catherine Heaney face questions at the Oireachtas Arts Committee next week about the treatment of staff.

They will be asked about a staff survey report completed last October that found 40pc of staff were at risk of developing anxiety and depression, while one-in-five employees complained of being "often" or "always" bullied. One employee complained of having to deal with "bullies and perverts".

As part of a major examination of the museum's human-resources procedures, all staff who have not previously been subject to Garda vetting will now have to undergo it.

The move will mainly affect staff taken on prior to 2009, when a recruitment embargo was put in place which lasted until 2015. All staff taken on since then have already been Garda-vetted. Prior to vetting being introduced, staff had to undergo a Garda security check.

The vetting move was one of a number of actions agreed by the museum's board in recent weeks.

In a statement, Ms Heaney said the board was working to ensure there were "robust processes and controls in place" to ensure effective management of staff.

"Compounded by a notable reduction of Government funding during the recession and the public sector moratorium on hiring, it is clear that the museum's human resources have been operating in a challenging environment," she said.

Disputes

The museum has been dogged by a number of disputes involving staff in recent years.

The chairman of the Oireachtas Arts Committee, Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, told the Dáil last month that settlements were reached in two cases where staff issued legal proceedings.

Another member of staff, who was found by an independent investigation to have sexually harassed a colleague, was placed on administrative leave in recent weeks and is now involved in a legal dispute with the museum.

The board said it had agreed to a number of measures relating to human resources at a meeting on March 16. These includes the hiring of auditors to examine "all HR processes and procedures".

The statement said a number of measures had also been introduced in response to the staff survey.

These include "the introduction of a museum council to discuss industrial relations issues, a staff forum to foster two-way communication between management and staff, formal processes for communication with staff, and the delivery of management and staff training in 2017 and 2018".

The statement added that there would be "awareness-raising and implementation of the full range of HR policies and procedures", as well as mechanisms "to develop and support staff in reaching their fullest potential".

A sub-committee of the board has been appointed to oversee the implementation of the measures.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys was advised of the plans a fortnight ago and a request was made for resources to implement the measures.

Irish Independent

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