Minister announces new measures to tackle harassment in arts sector

Heather Humphreys says groups most work together "to drive out unacceptable behaviour"

Minister announces new measures to tackle harassment in arts sector

Heather Humphreys. Photo:

The Culture Minister has announced a series of measures to tackle sexual harassment and abuse of power in the arts sector.

Heather Humphreys is to set up workshops teaching board members and senior staff how to deal with the issues.

The workshops will have a "particular emphasis on issues relating to bullying, abuse of power and sexual harassment in the workplace".

Groups reporting to the Department of Culture will also be asked for assurances that they are complying with their obligations under employment legislation.

The minister is also going to personally meet with the group of eight theatre heads who co-signed a statement condemning sexual harassment, as well as the Arts Council.

The announcements follow recent complaints about Michael Colgan, the former artistic director of the Gate Theatre.

Over the past two weeks, a number of women have come forward to accuse Mr Colgan of inappropriate behaviour.

He is expected to make a statement responding to the allegations.

"Safe and respectful environment"

Announcing the new measures, Minister Humphreys said: “I believe that my Department, the Arts Council and the leading members of theatre organisations should work together to encourage a safe and respectful environment free from abuse of power and sexual harassment.

"The initiatives I am announcing today with the Arts Council are intended to facilitate the entire sector to work collectively to drive out unacceptable behaviour."

She explained that the recent accusations encouraged her to act, observing: "It actually shocked me. I feel as the Minister for Culture that I should take a lead on this."

Orlaith McBride, director of the Arts Council, said: "What we have heard over the last number of days is that organisations need to be supported to ensure that the right conditions are in place for all artists and those working in the arts sector."

She added that the council is looking forward to working with Minister Humphrey's department and the arts sector to "better understand the supports that are needed".