Sunday 25 August 2019

No complaints to Gate board about Colgan, says ex-BBC chief

Michael Colgan
Michael Colgan
Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Michael Grade has said the board of the Gate Theatre received no complaints about Michael Colgan's behaviour toward women during his time as a director.

Grade, a former chairman of the BBC, served on the board of the Gate for eight years up to 2004.

Questions have been asked about what the theatre's board may have known about the behaviour of Colgan, who retired as its artistic director last year. When contacted last week, Grade said through a spokesperson that "nothing remotely of this nature was ever brought to the board during the time he was there, either formally or informally".

The British media figure declined to make any further comment.

The Gate declined to comment when asked whether the current board of directors was aware of complaints against Colgan.

Grace Dyas, a writer and director who was the first to go public with allegations of "abuse of power" against Colgan, said last week that she believed the Gate's board and senior management were aware of his behaviour.

She is one of seven women who rejected the confidential, independent process put in place by the Gate a fortnight ago to examine complaints of abuse of power and inappropriate behaviour against Colgan.

In a statement, the women said their confidence in the impartiality of the current board was undermined, because Colgan served as a member of that board for many years.

Grade is the second former Gate director to state that no complaints reached the board about the behaviour of Colgan.

Tony O'Dalaigh, who was a director of the Gate for 10 years to 2002, previously told the Sunday Independent that he had no knowledge of any such complaints during his time on the board.

However, he did witness Colgan suggest to a young woman that she give him a massage while she was being interviewed for a management role in the Dublin Theatre Festival. The woman, Annette Clancy, now a lecturer at UCD, said she decided to publish her account of the interview, after she read Dyas's account of being verbally abused by Colgan. Several other women followed suit.

Colgan addressed the allegations for the first time last weekend, in an article in the Sunday Independent. He apologised for what he termed was his "misjudged behaviour" and said he was "deeply distressed" at the realisation that he had caused upset to co-workers. He said: "I already knew I was not politically correct", adding that he "often sacrificed proper conduct for a punch line".

However, he said his behaviour "should not be equated with sexual crimes" and "took issue" with many of the press and social media references.

His apology was rejected by some of women, including Dyas, who said it did not tell the whole truth, and Clancy, who dismissed it as "a series of excuses" and "not an apology".

The Gate has appointed Gaye Cunningham, an adjudication officer with the Workplace Relations Commission, to conduct an independent review.

Statements issued on behalf of the Gate's board and management condemned "the issue of sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre world" and promised that "it will listen to what people have to say".

Sunday Independent

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