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Dublin: 11 °C Thursday 21 February, 2019

Gabriel Byrne says 'sex pests' were tolerated at RTÉ in the 1970s

Speaking today, Byrne said someone at RTÉ had made a former girlfriend’s life “an absolute misery” when she worked there.

Image: Clemens Niehaus/PA Images

ACTOR GABRIEL BYRNE has said that there was “a climate of abject sexism” at RTÉ when he worked there in the late-1970s and early 1980s.

Speaking today on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke, Byrne described the way that some men would treat women at the broadcaster was “absolutely ridiculous” and that “nobody questioned” that these things would happen at the time.

He recalled things he’d experienced and stories he’d been told at the time by friends about the culture at RTÉ when he was on the cast of The Riordans.

“People just laughed and said ‘there he is doing those things’,” he said. “It was common knowledge. The idea that you’d go to RTÉ and complain wasn’t an option.”

He described instances where men would be sexually inappropriate towards women, but that would simply be tolerated.

Byrne said that while most men at the time were “decent and respectful”, for some “it was accepted men behaved that way”.

He said that one particular person harassed his then-girlfriend numerous times.

Byrne said: “One of those guys made her life an absolute misery through his sexual improprieties.

Another friend of mine who worked on her very first week there -  two producers took a bet on who could get her to bed first… nobody thought this was really appalling behaviour.

Commenting on his then-partner, Byrne said she treated the man the “only way she could: derisively. She laughed at him.”

The actor went on to say that some of the men who displayed these sorts of behaviour are still there today.

“There’s still a few people walking around the place who were regarded as – I don’t know what you would call them – sex pests,” he said.

That was the climate at the time. Nobody questioned it.

Byrne was also asked by O’Rourke about his interactions with Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. He has worked with both in the past.

On Weinstein, he said: “They knew Harvey was a sleazebag. He was quite unsavoury in his attitude towards women. [But] I never came across anybody who was aware of the violence of his behaviour.”

He also described an instance during the filming of the Usual Suspects when it was temporarily shut down, because of an incident between Kevin Spacey and a man on the set.

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Sean Murray

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