The government is being urged to establish an independent investigation into accusations of bullying and inappropriate behavior, including sexual remarks, over a seven-year period made against Michael Colgan, once Ireland’s highest-paid arts director.
The former artistic director of the Gate Theatre in Dublin said on RTE News on Sunday that he would make a statement but did not indicate when it would be issued.
Colgan resigned earlier this year from his €250,000 a year package after 34 years in charge of the Gate.
The Dublin theater announced last week that an independent professional from human resources would be appointed to oversee a new formal process for anyone who experienced sexual harassment and abuse of power.
But seven women linked to or working in the theater who have made allegations in recent days of harassment, inappropriate behavior, bullying and assault against Colgan have refused to cooperate with an inquiry conducted by the theater.
They said in a joint statement that they questioned the independence of any process that is funded and administered directly by the Gate. They said Colgan sat on the board of the Gate for many years and this undermined their confidence in the impartiality of the current board.
The group’s statement was published on the website of Grace Dyas, the actress and director who brought the initial allegations to light.
Dyas claimed that last year, after he bought her a drink in a pub, Colgan told her she had lost so much weight and then added, “I’d almost have sex with you.” He later denied to her that he made the comment
Annette Clancy, a former program administrator of the Dublin Theatre Festival, was interviewed for a job by a group which included Colgan. He said during the interview that he would like her to give him a massage. Clancy’s CV referred to a qualification in “holistic massage therapy.”
The most serious claim was made in a blog post by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth, the company manager for a Gate tour of The Importance of Being Earnest in South Carolina.
Smyth wrote that she had experienced a “plethora of inappropriateness and bullying” and that Colgan had slapped her hard on the buttocks.
She wrote, “He had been sexually inappropriate towards me countless times and he had embarrassed me in public by shouting at me or being breathtakingly rude.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar welcomed the Gate’s own investigation into the claims. But the government is being urged to investigate whether an independent expert can be appointed to oversee the process.
Niamh Smyth, the Fianna Fail arts spokeswoman, said that it was only right and proper to hold an independent inquiry.
“These claims have rocked to the core the Irish artistic community and are a major threat to our reputation as a leading artistic nation,” Smyth said.
Meanwhile, Gate Theatre trustees, former High Court president Nicholas Kearns and Martin McAleese, husband of former Irish President Mary McAleese, have expressed “deep concern” at the allegations against Colgan and welcomed the theatre’s inquiry.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland has called on the Gate to initiate an independent investigation to examine not only employees’ experiences but the experiences of anyone who has worked with Colgan over the years.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Colgan still had not issued the statement he promised on Sunday night.