Categorized | National Museum

SEX PEST CRISIS AT NATIONAL MUSEUM

By: Valerie Hanley and Michael O’Farrell

A FRESH sexism crisis threatens to engulf the Government after ex-chief of the National Museum Pat Wallace said his former institution is a hotbed of misogyny.

The comments come as the Irish Mail on Sunday reveals the name of a civil servant who harassed a colleague, and admitted to having fantasies about tall women.

The MOS can also reveal:

* There is a second sex pest in the National Museum – who can’t be named by the MOS for legal reasons – whose ongoing presence has contributed to a toxic environment at the institution.

* Andy Halpin, the man who had fantasies about tall women, is on the board of an evangelist Christian church. He is currently on paid administrative leave as he sues the State for suspending him from work.

* The Department of Culture and Heritage – led by Minister Heather Humphreys – has been accused, by the psychologist tasked with sorting out the issues, of spending the last six years doing ‘everything to make sure that it is not brought out into the open’.

* A blog post by former archaeologist Adrienne Corless, daughter of Tuam Babies historian Catherine, reveals that Mr Halpin’s harassment continues to affect her.

The revelations come in the wake of sexism allegations against Michael Colgan, the former head of Dublin’s Gate Theatre. It also comes amid controversy over why the Taoiseach allowed a Government minister to break discrimination laws without sanction.

Independent Alliance Minister John Halligan was last night defended by his colleague Minister Finian McGrath, who says he’s not a sexist, and is being attacked by ‘hypocrites’. Leo Varadkar told reporters yesterday that Mr Halligan’s transgression – where he asked a female interview candidate if she was married and had children – was ‘not a hanging offence’.

But his minority administration will have to deal with the continuing fallout alongside a crisis at an institution which is right next door to Leinster House.

Former director Dr Patrick Wallace’s forthright comments come as Ms Corless, a former employee of the museum who was sexually harassed, named the male superior responsible.

sex past 2 3

In a blog post this week Adrienne Corless – a daughter of acclaimed amateur historian Catherine Corless – described her experience of continuous harassment including an incident in which her superior pushed her up against a door to measure her height.

‘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 girls he’d seen,’ Ms Corless wrote.

‘He said I was a “foil for his fantasies”.’ The superior responsible for this harassment which dates back more than a decade was Dr Andy Halpin, a married member of the Museum’s antiquities division. Since 2015 Mr Halpin has also been a board member of an evangelist church mission that works with students.

Mr Halpin, who lives in Clondalkin in Dublin, was placed on administrative leave in February. He is suing the museum in a bid to be reinstated.

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Irish Mail on Sunday – November 12, 2017.

But the MOS can reveal that a second sex pest remains in his position at the museum. He was involved in an alleged sexual assault of a female colleague. When contacted by the MOS the alleged assailant, who has considerable influence over the careers of many within the museum, refused to comment.

But according to Mr Wallace and other insiders, sexual harassment remains a fear for women working at the National Museum.

Asked if he believes there are still ongoing concerns about bullying and sexual harassment at the Museum, Mr Wallace, who appears on TV3’s Gogglebox with his wife Siobhán Cuffe, replied: ‘From what I hear, yes. And I’m sad to hear that. And I would have hoped by now that things might have been sorted out to the benefit of all the staff.’ Mr Wallace, who says he regrets not being able to resolve these issues before his retirement in 2012, said: ‘There was an outbreak of unrestrained misogyny at the museum shortly before I left.

There was a misogyny there and I fought against that. I’m close to a number of my female colleagues and they say it’s still there.’ He said he did not want to comfrom ment on criticism by Ms Corless of the manner in which he handled her complaint of harassment.

Revelations of continuing harassment come as Culture Minister Ms Humphreys responded to allegations at the Gate Theatre by announcing a number of measures to tackle sexual harassment and abuse of power in the workplace in the arts.

Under the measures the boards of national cultural institutions and agencies will have to attend workshops on governance.

But Stephanie Regan, a consultant psychotherapist hired by the museum to deal with staff bullying concerns between 2008 and 2012, said she found the Minister’s announcement insincere.

‘I find the sincerity of the intention in that to be very difficult to accept when she has known, and her department and the minister before her, has known since 2011 from me and I believe from others that there have been huge issues in the museum of a sexual harassment nature and of a bullying nature.

‘This Minister and her officials have done everything to make sure it was not brought out into the open. So I have no great confidence in the Minister in this instance. There’s a legacy issue in terms of the style of cover that seems to be knitted into the DNA of department officials.’

Asked if she believed women at the museum remain fearful of harassment, Ms Regan, formerly an election candidate for Fine Gael, said: ‘Absolutely and they have told me so.’ She pointed to the experience of Ms Corless who lost her contract while her harasser received a mild sanction and kept his job.

A spokesman for the Museum said: ‘Any allegation of harassment is a matter of grave concern for the board and executive.’ He added that the museum had taken a number of steps to develop a ‘robust HR function… conducive to a supportive working environment’.

A spokesman for the Department of Culture said: ‘While the Minister cannot get involved in HR matters, the Minister has already provided additional support in dealing with the legacy issues it faces.’ She added that the department had sanctioned the creation of five roles at the museum ‘to assist in this process’.

Devoted Christian who kissed and groped colleague.

THIS is the senior civil servant at the centre of the National Museum sex harassment scandal, who admitted to fantasising about tall women, and inappropriately using the internet in the workplace.

Andy Halpin, 57, at his home. He is the senior civil servant at the centre of Ireland's National Museum sex harassment scandal. Museum Clondalkin Man 5 Yellow Meadows Avenue. Clondalkin Photographed by å© Michael Chester + 353 87 8072295 info@chester.ie

NO COMMENT; Andy Halpin at his home this weekend. Photo – Michael Chester.

Andy Halpin, 57, is a curator at the museum’s antiquities section. And even though he sexually harassed a female colleague for more than two years, the archaeological expert is suing the State while on administrative leave from his permanent and pensionable civil service job. A self-professed committed Christianwho has served on the board of the Agape Ministries Ireland religious charity for the past two years – blamed a visit by schoolgirls to the museum for prolonging his fantasies about ‘tall women’.

And when questioned by consultants investigating a complaint lodged against him by colleague Adrienne Corless, Mr Halpin also admitted he had ‘problems with the inappropriate use of the internet.’ However, when questioned by the Irish Mail on Sunday at his home this weekend, Mr Halpin was less than forthcoming.

Dressed in a navy dressing gown over a blue pair of pyjamas, he said: ‘I’m sorry… I can’t talk about it.’ Asked about his schoolgirl fantasies, he added: ‘I’m sorry… this is sub judice. There is a case pending.’ Mr Halpin was suspended from his job last February after a report about the sexual harassment case against him was published.

Ms Corless, 38 – whose mother Catherine exposed the Tuam babies scandal – began working at the museum in 2004 but soon began to feel uncomfortable in Mr Halpin’s presence, when he kissed her and touched her inappropriately.

This weekend the archaeologist said: ‘Women need to stand up and speak out and institutions need to deal with these issues properly. In my case, things were not dealt with properly. I feel the system was set up to support him rather than me. I became the casualty.

‘The disciplinary action taken against him was so mild and so minor. He should have been fired.’

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