Wednesday 18 July 2018

Independent investigation should be established into The Gate harassment allegations - Taoiseach

'I do not believe for a second matters like bullying or sexual harassment are unique to any one sector'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

An independent investigation should be established into allegations of sexual harassment and bullying at The Gate Theatre, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

The Taoiseach told the Dáil there should be "no tolerance of assault, sexual harassment or bullying of any sort in any workplace".

"I want that message to go out very clearly."

He was speaking after former Tánaiste Joan Burton described allegations emerging from The Gate as "harrowing and grotesque".

He praised women who have come forward to tell their stories in recent week, saying they "may help to change the climate and climate and make people who may consider treating fellow workers or people subordinate to them in the workplace in such a beastly manner".

However, on the issue of allegations facing the former theatre director Michael Colgan, Mr Varadkar said The Gate is a private institution and not a public body.

Former Director of the Gate Theatre, Michael Colgan
Former Director of the Gate Theatre, Michael Colgan

"It has its own board and trustees, and it is incumbent on them to put in place an independent investigation to ensure the allegations made are thoroughly investigated."

The Taoiseach has discussed the issue with Arts Minister Heather Humphreys who has in turn met with members of the Arts Council to see if wider actions need to be taken in the sector.

But Mr Varadkar added: "I do not believe for a second matters like bullying or sexual harassment are unique to any one sector. They are probably prevalent in society and I am full of admiration for the people who have come forward in this and other countries to tell their stories."

Ms Burton who said the descriptions of what has been happening to women "in partially publicly funded employment is hardly believable".

"I know the Taoiseach does not have a direct role in this, but as a public funder I ask him or his Government to take a leadership role.

"This is an incredibly important issue, most obviously to women in the workplace.  It is also important to young people in the workplace, whether men or women, who may be at the start of their careers," Ms Burton said.

She added: "Powerful dominant figures may use their power and dominance to make life very difficult for other people and seek to extract behaviour and favours from them which they would not otherwise dream of attempting to do.

"Having become Taoiseach, Deputy Varadker is obliged to offer leadership. This is a policy issue. He cannot hide behind law."

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