‘I am truly sorry’ Michael Col­gan breaks his si­lence

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - FRONT PAGE - Maeve Sheehan

MICHAEL COL­GAN, the for­mer artis­tic di­rec­tor of the Gate Theatre, has bro­ken his si­lence on al­le­ga­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour and abuse of power to apol­o­gise to any­one who was “made to feel up­set” by his “mis­judged be­hav­iour”.

In an ar­ti­cle in to­day’s Sun­day In­de­pen­dent, Mr Col­gan writes of his shock and deep dis­tress at the up­set his be­hav­iour had caused and said he be­lieved the prob­lem lay in the ob­scur­ing of the lines “be­tween my work and my life”.

He said he failed to see and should have “re­spected the dif­fer­ence” be­tween friends and em­ploy­ees.

How­ever, he also said that his be­hav­iour should not be equated with “sex­ual crimes” and he took “se­ri­ous is­sue” with much of the re­cent press and so­cial me­dia ref­er­ences to him.

The Gate Theatre last week ap­pointed a work re­la­tions ex­pert to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent re­view of the al­le­ga­tions of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­iour and abuse of power that have been made against Mr Col­gan.

Gaye Cun­ning­ham, an ad­ju­di­ca­tion of­fi­cer with the Work­place Re­la­tions Com­mis­sion, is ex­pected to re­port to the board in Jan­uary 2018. The Gate said she would deal con­fi­den­tially and trans­par­ently with any com­plaints, “hav­ing re­gard to al­low­ing for due process to all par­ties con­cerned”.

Seven women who made al­le­ga­tions against Mr Col­gan ques­tioned the in­de­pen­dence of any in­ves­ti­ga­tion “that is funded and ad­min­is­tered di­rectly by the Gate” and signed a state­ment say­ing they would not be con­tact­ing the theatre.

In his ar­ti­cle, Mr Col­gan does not refer to the process under way, but he does apol­o­gise for any stress caused to the cur­rent board and man­age­ment of the Gate.

He said that in March when

he had left the theatre af­ter 33 years, he be­lieved he had been a “good boss” and was liked by all staff.

But re­cent re­al­i­sa­tions, which had come with “great force”, had be­lat­edly led him to “see things dif­fer­ently now”.

He said: “This re­al­i­sa­tion has been deeply dis­tress­ing and I sin­cerely apol­o­gise to any­one who was ever made to feel up­set.

“I al­ready knew that I was not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, that I of­ten sac­ri­ficed proper con­duct for a punch­line and that, at times, could be too ex­act­ing as a boss.

“But re­al­is­ing that I have been re­spon­si­ble for caus­ing dis­tress to some of those with whom I worked so closely has shocked me and I am truly sorry,” he said.

He said that when he had read re­cently that a for­mer em­ployee had said that she thought she liked him but now re­alised she did not, “it shook me”.

Grace Dyas, a writer and theatre di­rec­tor who was the first woman to make al­le­ga­tions about Mr Col­gan, is one of sev­eral women who said they will not en­gage with the Gate’s in­de­pen­dent ex­pert ap­pointed to ex­am­ine the al­le­ga­tions.

While she does not ques­tion Ms Cun­ning­ham’s abil­ity, Ms Dyas has said that she has on­go­ing con­cerns re­lated to the board of the Gate Theatre.

She said she and other women who have made al­le­ga­tions felt the mat­ter could only be fully re­solved once a new board was in place.

The Arts Coun­cil, which pro­vides fund­ing to the Gate, also said an in­de­pen­dent re­view was needed but that it was up to the theatre to ini­ti­ate it, not the Gov­ern­ment.

The Min­is­ter for Cul­ture, Her­itage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, last week an­nounced a num­ber of mea­sures to tackle sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse of power in the work­place in the arts and cul­ture sec­tor.

Mr Col­gan claims the “seed of the prob­lem” lay in the “ob­scur­ing of lines be­tween my work and my life, the un­seen prob­lem of over­lap be­tween work and play”.

He said: “I led my­self to be­lieve that my col­leagues were my friends.

“The lines had be­come blurred and I failed to see that.”

He said he should have “re­spected the dif­fer­ence” be­tween friends and em­ploy­ees, and added he had “failed to prop­erly as­sess the re­la­tion­ship I had with my staff ”.

He also said there was no doubt that if he could re­live his time at the Gate, where he gen­uinely thought ev­ery­one liked him, he would “act dif­fer­ently”.

“I would strictly ob­serve the bound­aries and set a stronger code of ethics.”

He said his be­hav­iour should not be equated with “sex­ual crimes”.

“I take se­ri­ous is­sue with much of the re­cent press and so­cial me­dia ref­er­ences to me. It is wrong that I have been the sub­ject of gross in­sin­u­a­tions and that my fam­ily have had to suf­fer to­tally false sug­ges­tions that I might be guilty of more than mis­judged be­hav­iour.

“We are liv­ing in a cli­mate where to be ac­cused is now enough to be deemed guilty. It is a wor­ry­ing in­dict­ment of our times that one can be put through such a pub­lic on­line trial with the me­dia as judge and Twit­ter as jury.”

APOL­OGY: Michael Col­gan

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