Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD announced a suite of measures on sexual harassment and abuse of power in the workplace in the arts and culture sector, including specific initiatives in conjunction with the Arts Council.
Firstly, the Minister has invited the group of eight leaders from Irish theatre organisations, who recently co-signed a statement condemning sexual harassment and abuse of power in the theatre in Ireland, to meet with her and the Arts Council next week.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ways in which the Department and the Arts Council together can support the sector in creating a safe culture and environment for those working in the industry. The meeting will provide a platform for discussion, debate and ideas.
Orlaith McBride, Director of the Arts Council said: “The Arts Council is committed in its strategy, ‘Making Great Art Work’, to improving the living and working conditions of artists. 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.
“We look forward to working together with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the sector to better understand the supports that are needed to ensure best practice in the arts sector.”
Separately, the Minister has identified a number of actions that she proposes to take in relation to bodies reporting directly to her Department. The bodies in question include our National Cultural Institutions and state agencies. While legally, the Boards of National Cultural Institutions and agencies are responsible for good governance practice, the Minister’s intention is to help boards fulfil their functions more effectively, and to support them in ensuring that policies in relation to equality and respect in the workforce operate effectively in line with best practice.
She has instructed her Department to arrange separate dedicated workshops for board members and senior staff of bodies reporting to the Department. The workshops will deal with governance in general, with a particular focus on the role of the board, the board’s relationship with the executive and their respective legal responsibilities. There will be a particular emphasis on issues relating to bullying, abuse of power and sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Minister will also extend an invitation to all other cultural organisations and arts centres around the country to avail of similar training. The training will be delivered to interested parties at a series of regional information days.
Minister Humphreys said: “In recent times, there have been a number of alarming allegations and reports of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace relating to the arts community. While all workplaces are obliged to comply with employment legislation, I have identified a number of actions that I can take as Minister in relation to the bodies reporting to my Department.
“More broadly, 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. Following the engagement between the Department, the Arts Council and the leading theatre organisations next week, I will be happy to address any further issues that are raised in our discussions.”