Thursday, 14 April 2005
Bullying in the Workplace.
Question 4: To ask the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs the main findings of the independent investigation into alleged incidents of bullying and harassment and the so-called culture of patronage in Waterways Ireland; the measures being adopted to ensure fair play and best practice within that organisation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11557/05]
An investigation into allegations of bullying, harassment and related matters in Waterways Ireland has been jointly carried out, with the consent of the parties involved, by independent investigators appointed by my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in the North. The report of the investigators has been submitted to the Departments and its conclusions and recommendations have been considered and accepted by both.
On 4 April 2005, my Department and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure issued a joint statement on the matter. The statement was copied by my office to the Deputy on that date. In line with the normal confidentiality that applies to personnel matters, the Departments stated that they do not propose to publish the report of the investigators. However, their joint statement included a summary of the findings of the investigators, as well as the actions to be taken following the findings, as agreed by the Departments with the chief executive of Waterways Ireland. It is not proposed to make any further comment about the investigation.
However, I reiterate that I welcome this opportunity to again acknowledge the efforts of the chief executive and staff of Waterways Ireland in advancing the work of this important North-South body, often in complex and difficult circumstances. As I stated in the House in December 2004, the promotion of North-South co-operation in areas within my Department's remit remains a high priority for me and I will continue to support the work of the North-South bodies responsible for inland waterways and language matters in particular in every way possible.
If the Minister has seen and read the report, he must agree that the joint statement issued by both Departments is the greatest whitewash and fiction to come out of any Department in my memory. The report was specific whereas the so-called summary has avoided the main issues. Lying at the core of this are bullying, appointments and promotions. These three areas were specifically and bluntly addressed in the report. The report had no hesitation upon finding that these incidents represent examples of bullying and highly inappropriate behaviour on the part of a senior manager. Very serious questions were also asked about appointments and promotions. When will we see the report? The summary is utterly misleading.
It avoids the issue and deals with peripheral matters rather than those at the core. I would quote from it if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle allowed me to, but will the Minister make the report available to Members of the House so that we can judge for ourselves?
Have steps been taken to ensure Waterways Ireland's corporate procedures are being carried out? This is an important cross-Border organisation established as a result of the Good Friday Agreement and has implications much wider than Republic or Northern politics. It has implications for the peace process. What measures are being taken and what procedures are being put in place to ensure there is proper corporate management within this important body?
Once allegations were made a step-by-step procedure that is much too long to go through now was agreed upon and investigators were appointed. As situations such as this have arisen in the past in which people agreed a procedure but did not find the answer they desired, we understand that these things can happen. A procedure was followed in this case and has been brought to a conclusion. The detailed information I have does not coincide with the Deputy's statement.
I understand that allegations were made concerning the exercise of political influence in respect of two appointments and that this matter did not fall within the terms of reference of the investigation. This was all agreed beforehand. One cannot agree the rules of a game and not play by them. However, I and my Department are certain that no such influences were involved and I reject any allegations about that. Concerns were expressed in the report about the process followed leading to these appointments in Waterways Ireland. These have all been addressed in new procedures. The Deputy can take that as read. I have made sure of that and have gone into all those details. I was much more concerned about making sure that once we agreed a process to deal with the issue, it would be followed to the letter of the law and would come to a full conclusion. The second issue was to put steps in place to ensure whatever failings identified in the first process would not happen again.
The investigator acknowledged that no criticism was being made of the individuals involved nor was it being suggested that they were unsuitable for the posts. The investigator raised no issues in regard to the validity of the appointment and the two sponsor Departments have accepted this. When one sends in an investigator, one must agree with the result.
I have no difficulty with the findings of the investigator. As far as I know, they have been accepted by everyone. We have some difficulty with the joint statement issued burying the findings of the investigator. Given that it has been accepted by the investigation that there were incidents of bullying, have any disciplinary measures been taken to ensure that does not happen again?