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Tuesday 11 December 2018

New complaint of harassment at National Museum

Josepha Madigan. Photo: Tom Burke
Josepha Madigan. Photo: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A fresh complaint of bullying and harassment at the National Museum of Ireland was notified to authorities last week.

Arts Minister Josepha Madigan confirmed the complaint was made and denied her department had a “laissez-faire” attitude to the issue.

The institution has been dogged with controversy in recent times over the treatment of staff.

A survey conducted in 2016 reported one-in-five employees felt they were “often” or “always” subjected to bullying, while another 20pc felt they were “sometimes” the victims of bullying.

A former staff member, archaeologist Adrienne Corless, also went public last November, detailing in an interview with the Irish Independent how she had been sexually harassed by a colleague between 2004 and 2006.

Responding to a question from Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, Ms Madigan said: “My department has been informed of new allegations of bullying and harassment in the National Museum.”

The minister said the fresh complaint was made on February 22 and had been submitted to the State Claims Agency, which deals with claims against most public institutions.

She said the agency notified her by letter on Tuesday that as the museum and not the minister was the employer, it would be dealing with the matter internally.

Speaking in the Dáil, she said she could not discuss individual cases and that human resources issues were a matter for the executive and board of the museum.

However, she said her department had provided additional support, including sanction for three specific HR positions and two temporary positions for the corporate services area of the museum.

She added that a chairperson and a new board were appointed in July 2016 and were implementing changes at the museum.

Mr Tóibín said the museum had “been racked with allegations of bullying and sexual harassment” over the past number of years.

“Millions of euro have been spent so far on consultants, reports, sexual abuse experts and High Court pay-offs,” he said.

“This, of course, does not include the very real damage that has been done to the lives of a large number of people who simply wanted to work in the premier heritage location in Ireland.”

Mr Tóibín claimed the minister’s response to the issue was “unsatisfactory” and that “significant damage has been done to a large number of women” who have worked at the museum.

“These women were in the care of the State because the State had a role during that time as the department was involved in those particular HR issues. These women could not receive justice. The only way they could do so was to go to the front pages of the national newspapers and tell their stories,” he said.

The Sinn Féin TD went on to allege that a senior person in the museum gave a report to the department, but it “did not carry out anything”.

Mr Tóibín said the report “does not exist at present” and had it been acted upon none of the subsequent allegations would have happened.

“Sitting on hands so far has only meant more people have had to suffer. I urge the minister to take a hands-on approach to resolving this issue,” he said.

Ms Madigan said she did not accept that no steps had been taken and denied her department had a laissez-faire attitude.

“I have the utmost sympathy for women and men who go through any bullying or harassment in the museum or any other cultural institution,” she said.

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