‘Harrowing’ abuse reports across arts sector sees Oireachtas committee recommend funding be tied to anti-harassment initiatives

Funding in the arts sector should be conditional on recipients adhering to anti-harassment initiatives, a report from the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport & Media has said.

he report: ‘Safe and Respectful Working Conditions in the Arts’ came after “harrowing” accounts of abuse, sexual assault, bullying and harassment were laid bare by many stakeholders in the sector.

The committee has recommended 13 actions be taken as urgent “cultural change” is required across the sector, Cathaoirleach of the committee, Deputy Niamh Smyth said. State agencies and government must act now to protect artists and arts workers, Deputy Smyth said.

“The Irish Theater Institute’s SPEAK UP report represented a landmark step in highlighting the breadth and extent of the profoundly troubling issues facing artists, and particularly women in the arts.

“Every artist deserves to practice and disseminate their art across safe platforms where they are treated with the utmost dignity and respect. No matter the art form or practice space, this should be the baseline standard—not a special request.

“Effort needs to come from Government, from State agencies, and from all arts participants to enact the cultural change within the arts sector that the present evidence suggests is so urgently required. More must be done to fully safeguard all artists and arts workers—and particularly women, LGBTQIA+ individuals, disabled individuals, racially and ethnically diverse individuals, and those from varying socioeconomic backgrounds,” Deputy Smyth said.

An independent facility for anonymous disclosures should be set up and sanctions for those in breach of any safeguarding regulations need to be clearly set out, the committee said in its report.

Funding and commissioning across the sector should also be reformed to ensure a quota of 30pc representation of women, and of men, on governing bodies by 2025, and 40pc by 2030, for any bodies in receipt of public funding.

This should be tracked via “annual reporting on progress towards agreed quotas on gender representation and funding,” the report stated.

The committee also called for further research on the impact of harmful workplace behaviors in the arts, with a particular focus on “those from varying socio-economic backgrounds, women, disabled individuals, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and racially and ethnically diverse individuals”.

Among its other recommendations was a sweeping review of the Boards and leadership structures of “all arts organizations” under the remit of the department “with a view to mandating increased gender balance and increased representation across the socio-economic spectrum, and of disabled individuals, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and racially and ethnically diverse individuals in arts leadership and decision-making”.

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