Senior curator’s sex harassment of top archaeologist
FOR 10 years former archaeologist Adrienne Corless held her tongue – just like others who’ve experienced sexual harassment and bullying.
But, in February this year, when other allegations at the National Museum of Ireland surfaced, some commentators doubted the severity of the situation.
Yet Adrienne knew things were even worse than what had been reported. She said so in her kettleontherange. com blog in a post entitled A Workplace Fable.
Initially she didn’t name the institution, or the name of her tormentor but on Monday – after reading the stories of those allegedly harassed by Michael Colgan at the Gate – she updated her post to reveal she was writing about Andy Halpin and the National Museum.
The blog described how Mr Halpin had first kissed her, unwanted, on the cheek after her first interview for the job. He did so again at the end of her first day and again at the end of the first week. Adrienne resolved to keep her distance. But her colleague would lean over her desk, an arm on each side of her body, entrapping her completely.
Before long he’d touched her buttock – twice – while alone in a store room. On another occasion, he had leaned down and, unprompted, kissed the top of her head. Then there was the measuring and the tall woman fantasy.
He asked Adrienne to stand up against the door so he could measure her. ‘He’d seen some tall schoolgirls visiting the public side of our workplace and he “wanted to prolong the fantasy” he had with tall women, by contrasting my short stature with the tall girls he’d seen just prior.
‘He said I was a “foil for his fantasies”,’ Adrienne, now a yoga teacher, wrote. She told how she wasn’t the first person to be targeted by Mr Halpin.
‘I confided in new friends in other departments and they told me sadly that it had happened before.’
Mr Halpin, she told the MoS, was even referred to as ‘Handy Andy’ by his female colleagues because of his unwelcome touchyfeely reputation. Adrienne’s complaint – when she found the courage to make it – was successful. Mr Halpin was mildly sanctioned in 2007 and kept his job. But Adrienne’s contract was ultimately not renewed. As a consequence her PhD, which was related to her day job, was lost too.
And as she prepared to leave the museum in 2012, her most senior superior – Pat Wallace – asked if she would mind briefing Mr Halpin since he would be taking over her work. ‘Over my dead body,’ she told him.
In another blog post on Thursday, Adrienne recalled further details of making her complaint.
She wrote: ‘I reflect on the time I made my formal complaint, when a senior manager and Pat Wallace met with me in my office, informally, to check on me. I felt like they cared, but Pat Wallace elbowed the other man in a chummy way, and chuckled, “HO HO, I’d never have thought Halpin had it in him.” (The other man blanked this.)
‘It was like he hadn’t thought him man enough before now. How’s that for “locker-room talk”, with me right there? I ask myself, what hope did I have if the boss behaved like he was impressed at the capability of another man in his staff to sexually harass a woman?’ In response to the measures announced by Arts Minister Heather Humphreys, Adrienne said: ‘There’s a new director due to be appointed and I just hope that person has the vision and the wherewithal to go in and tear down the existing structure and start all over again.’
Brave: Adrienne Corless at home yesterday