- Minister and the Arts Council to meet with theatre leaders who co-signed statement on harassment
- Minister collaborating with the Arts Council to facilitate an industry-wide consultation at our National Theatre
- Measures announced relating to bodies answering directly to the Minister’s Department
Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD, today (Thursday), 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.
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. Individually, there are limits on what we can do - working together we can achieve our shared objectives.
The Minister has also been engaging with the Chair of the Abbey Theatre this week. She continued:
“Arising from conversations with the Abbey Theatre, I will also be collaborating with our National Theatre to facilitate an industry-wide consultation exercise that will be held in partnership with the Arts Council. Our hope is to hold the consultation by the end of the month.”
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 undertake the following actions:
- 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.
- Highlight once again to bodies reporting to the Department the nature of their legal obligations, by immediately writing to them to seek assurances of their compliance with obligations under employment legislation (the Employment Equality Acts, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, and the Employment Equality Act 1998 (Code of Practice) (Harassment) Order 2012).
In any event, they are required to give these assurances in the annual report of their accounts, but in light of recent events in the sector, the intention is to shine a light on these obligations.
- Accelerate a planned review of compliance by bodies reporting to the Department with the requirements of the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies.
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.”
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