Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs
The Arts Council: Statement
Further to the meeting of the joint committee on 23 November, I welcome the representatives from the Arts Council, Ms Orlaith McBride, Mr. Martin O'Sullivan and Ms Sheila Pratschke. I invite Ms McBride to make a statement.
Ms Orlaith McBride:
On 23 November, representatives of the Arts Council were invited to appear before this committee to discuss sexual harassment in the arts and culture sector, with a particular focus on the policies, provisions, structures and procedures in place and required to address the issue. At the start of the meeting the Cathaoirleach, Deputy Tóibín, reminded all present to respect parliamentary practice and not criticise or make charges against any person by name or in such a way as to make such persons identifiable.
During the course of our appearance, a series of questions were put to me personally by Senator Warfield. These questions raised the issue of a friendship with a named third party which the Senator indicated might give rise to a conflict of interest. The Chairman intervened to disallow the questions. However, even though the questions were quite rightly disallowed, the fact that the issues were raised by Senator Warfield means the inference remains on the record. As the Arts Council is in receipt of State funding, the issue of integrity and conflict of interest is a serious one. The council has both a statutory and non-statutory framework in place to deal with conflicts of interest that may arise.
The Arts Act 2003, the Arts Council's governance framework and the council's staff code of conduct all provide that where a conflict of interest arises, that conflict must be disclosed and the conflicted party shall take no part in the council's deliberations or seek to influence it in the decision-making process. At all times, whether as a council member or as director of the Arts Council, I adhered fully to these provisions and my statutory obligations. The association between me and the third party named was no different from the association I had with other members of the arts community in Ireland and did not give rise to a conflict of interest.
I thank the committee for affording me the opportunity to appear before it today for the purposes of making a statement in response to the inference raised by the Senator and to read this response into the official record of the committee concerning this matter.