Confirmation of high levels of harassment and bullying in the Arts sector requires urgent and comprehensive Government response

21 October 2021

Labour arts and culture spokesperson Marie Sherlock said that research published today confirms concerns about widespread harassment and bullying in the Arts sector. Commenting on the Speak Up report commissioned by the Irish Theatre Institute as part of the its Dignity in the Workplace Initiative, Senator Sherlock said the scale of harmful behaviour reported by the research is frightening and that there is a serious onus on the Government and the Arts Council to put in place comprehensive measures to stamp out this culture.

Senator Sherlock said:

“The findings in today’s Speak Up report are truly stark and reflect the appalling behaviour that has continued in the sector unabated. The Irish Theatre Institute must be commended for commissioning this report and extensive action is now required to stamp out harassment or any form of sexual, emotional or physical abuse or bullying within the sector, and I am heartened to hear Minister Martin and Arts Council Chair Maureen Kennelly commit to this.

“I also want to pay particular tribute to FairPlé and their #MisteFosta campaign who have shone a light on the abusive behaviour perpetrated by some within the Irish traditional music, to Una Monaghan on her research on this area in the Irish traditional music sector, to those involved in Wake Up Irish Poetry and to all those other women who came forward in the theatre industry to tell their story. Given the freelance nature of the work and the dependence of younger artists and arts workers on more established persons, the risk taken to themselves in term of their career, with regard to speaking out was enormous.

“We need to build in measures to protect all workers in the sector and work to create lasting cultural change within the arts.  There must be consequences for the actions of perpetrators and support for any victim of harassment or assault. One of the main tools must be the withholding of Arts Council and any other arts related grant funding or tax exemptions for those found to engage in harassment or any form of sexual, emotional or physical abuse or bullying.

“The bravery of the people who came forward to share their experience as part of this report must be matched with action. I hope that today signals the start of a different approach and culture overhaul within the sector.”

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