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Department destroyed report on National Museum management, Dáil hears

Minister Heather Humphreys said that to her knowledge her Department had not received any allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour on the National Museum.

Image: SAM BOAL/RollingNews.ie

Updated 8.45pm

A TD HAS told the Dáil that he understands a report into the actions of management at the National Museum of Ireland was destroyed in a government department.

Speaking in the Dáil in Irish yesterday, Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín said that allegations of sexual abuse, bullying and heavy-handed management at the National Museum were well-known.

After a problem with the Dáil’s Irish language translation system, Tóibín continued in English, telling the Dáil:

With regard to the case of the individual who is on administrative leave, it is my understanding that a report was sent to the Minister’s Department, that there is a copy of that report in the National Museum and that this report was destroyed in the Department.
It is also my information that a protected disclosure was made to the National Museum but there is no record of a protected disclosure on the Department’s records or on the National Museum’s records.

“The stand-off that exists between the Minster and the Department and the museum is very difficult to understand given that two cases were settled in the High Court around this issue.”

A recent, separate report into well-being at the National Museum described the work environment there as ‘toxic’.

90424886_90424886 Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Minister with responsibility for the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs Heather Humphreys replied:

“I repeat that I am advised that my Department has not received any allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour and I am not aware of any protected disclosures.

What I can say, however, is that an official in my Department received a telephone call approximately two years ago during the course of which the same issues were raised that had been previously written about to my predecessor regarding the report of 2012. I did not ignore the matter.

“This is a HR issue. I am not getting involved in HR issues.”

Tóibín said it was “not credible” that the Minister would say that it is not her responsibility “to fix this particular problem”.

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the National Museum of Ireland said that their board has been engaging in a planning process “to ensure that the Museum develops to its fullest potential”.

They also added that no protected disclosures were made to the Museum.

Correspondence was received relating to inter-staff matters, but this correspondence does not legally constitute a protected disclosure.
The Museum does not comment or disclose details of correspondences from individual staff members, for legal and privacy purposes. However, we can confirm that all members of staff involved were afforded their full legal rights.

Earlier exchanges

Responding to questions put to her earlier, Heather Humphreys said that no allegations  in relation to sexual harassment had been received by her Department.

I am advised my Department has not received any allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the National Museum of Ireland, nor has any investigation of such allegations been undertaken.

“In April 2012, my predecessor was in receipt of correspondence relating to general staff issues at the National Museum of Ireland.”

She added that while it would not be appropriate to directly intervene in human resources issues, Humphreys added that she had discussions with the chair of the museum on legacy staffing issues.

90401854_90401854 Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Speaking in Irish, Peadar Tóibín said the Minister’s office got a call in June 2015 about these issues. He said that he was told by the team that the information was put before the Department, because they kept a copy in the National Museum as well.

“Is the Minister giving us inaccurate information, because the information the Minister has is completely different from the information from the team in there and others who are involved?”

Heather Humphreys clarified to say she hadn’t given anybody wrong information, and gave the following account in an attempt to clear the record:

“First, there was a consultant’s report in 2012, which was referred to the Department at that time. Human resources issues were mentioned in it and that was a matter for the museum.

A new board was appointed to the museum in July 2016.
A well-being survey was commissioned last autumn and it is now dealing with HR issues in the museum and any legacy issues. The board and the director of the museum, therefore, are dealing with those issues.
As I said, the well-being survey outlined a number of issues and it is on that basis that the board and the director will address the HR issues in the museum.

“I want to be clear that it is not my job to get involved in HR issues. I am very clear about that. It is the responsibility of the museum.

“The museum has a new board and a new chairperson. It is a very good board with a very capable chairperson and director of the museum. That is their responsibility.”

Show the evidence

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for Minister Humphreys urged Tóibín to produce the evidence he purports to have in relation to the allegation made in the Dáil.

They said: “Following Deputy Toibin’s comments in the Dáil, the Minister has asked the Secretary General of her Department to carry out a review of all relevant records and engagement between the Department and the National Museum in relation to HR and staffing issues.

She has also asked the Chair of the Museum to provide her with an update following the next Board meeting on the actions being taken to deal with staffing issues.
The Board and management of the Museum have statutory responsibility for HR issues, the minister of the day does not. The Minister appointed a new Board to the Museum last summer, with strong HR and corporate governance skills.
The new Board have already taken action to deal with the legacy HR issues at the Museum and the Minister has confidence in the Board and its Chair to deal with this matter.

This article was updated at 17.45 to include a statement from the National Museum of Ireland, and again updated at 20.45 to include a statement from the Department for Arts

Read: Report shows ‘toxic’ culture of bullying at National Museum of Ireland

Read: Conserving our heritage: ‘One woman was in tears that her home was a protected structure’

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