‘I am truly sorry’ Michael Colgan breaks his silence
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