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'Misuse of power is an open secret in Ireland like the past secrets about the Catholic Church'

Writer and theatre director and producer Grace Dyas was the first person to speak out against former director of the Gate Theatre Michael Colgan.

OVER THE PAST few weeks, a number of women have come forward with allegations about the former director of the Gate Theatre Michael Colgan.

Writer and theatre director and producer Grace Dyas was the first person to speak out against Colgan.

In an interview this morning on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta, Dyas said that misuse of power is an open secret in Irish public life, as was the case with the church in Ireland in the past.

Speaking to Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, Dyas said that she didn’t rush into making public allegations against Colgan, but that she sought advice, and sat with it for a while, before speaking out.

I saw with the #metoo campaign, in America or in England, people were saying this person did this to me when I was this age, but when I looked at Ireland, people weren’t giving names. It was like an open secret that everyone has, it’s everywhere in public life in Ireland.

“Like the open secrets about the Catholic Church. Everyone knew the priests were abusing their power, people saw the Magdalene Laundries on the street, but they were afraid to speak out. That time, it was fear of God and the priests, but now it’s fear of the law.”

Dyas said that she was also reluctant to speak out for the same reasons. “I said to myself, is this real, this fear, or is it a type of Orwellian trick, and I found out then that it had no basis, the fear, it was false.”

Misuse of power

Dyas said that misuse of power is widespread, and that there was a need for better structures to combat it.

It’s everywhere – in the government, in the media, in the universities, in the arts, in the law, in science, everywhere.

“And on top of that, if you’re a woman, you have to deal with the inequality that is everywhere in life. We need better structures in place to prevent misuse.”

As for her own experience, Dyas said that not much had changed in the structure of the Gate Theatre since to improve things.

“The system in the Gate Theatre is terrible … and the people who are working there have nowhere to go.

“If the same situation (as mine) occurred again, they have nowhere to go to highlight the problem because the same board is still in place that was there during Michael’s tenure.”

Independent expert 

The Gate Theatre has said that it has appointed an independent expert to look at allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” and “abuse of power” by the former director.

It said it had listened to the views of various stakeholders in recent days and taken on board some of the concerns raised. As a result, it has closed down the email address it had set up for women to anonymously tell their stories at confidential@gate-theatre.ie.

Gaye Cunningham, an adjudication officer with the Workplace Relations Commission, will conduct an independent review of the allegations made against Colgan. She is due to report back to the Board of the Gate in January.

Anyone wishing to come forward with concerns can contact her directly at cunninghamconfidential@outlook.ie.

In a statement this week the Gate Theatre said: “A copy of the expert’s final report will be provided simultaneously for information to our key stakeholder, the Arts Council.”

The Arts Council is the State-funded, government agency for developing the arts in Ireland.

Read: Gate Theatre appoints independent expert to examine Michael Colgan allegations>

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