Women of honour refused access to interim report detailing abuse in Defence Forces

Final report is due to be delivered to Government by end of year

An interim report on sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination in the Defence Forces will not be published or made available to the women who first brought the allegations to light.

The Independent Review Group (IRG), led by retired High Court judge Bronagh O’Hanlon, has written an interim report after conducting a preliminary examination of the allegations. However, the Women of Honour group has been denied access to a copy, one of the complainants said on Wednesday.

It is understood a large number of new alleged victims of abuse in the military have come forward to the review group since it started its work in January.

The allegations of the Women of Honour group first came to light in an RTÉ documentary last year, prompting Minister for Defence Simon Coveney to establish the Independent Review Group.

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However, the Women of Honour have declined to appear before the review group as they believe it does not have enough powers to adequately investigation the allegations. The women have criticised the fact the IRG does not have the power to compel witnesses give evidence.

One of the women, retired captain Diane Byrne, said the Women of Honour group has been approached several times by the IRG “to come in and talk about how these issues could be fixed.”

She said the group asked for sight of IRG’s interim report before agreeing to this but that they have not been given a copy.

“We would like to see the interim report so as to have an understanding as to whether there is any hope in this. I would love for there to be hope in this,” said Ms Byrne, who previously sued the Defence Forces after she was excluded from the promotions process due to be being on maternity leave.

“If they could show us something, we would then have some grounds to engage if we thought there was any plausibility to what they are trying to do.”

Ms Byrne said it was clear from the start the IRG terms of reference “was not going to cut it”. She said it is foolish to think the IRG can get to the bottom of the issue when it does not have the power to compel witnesses or perpetrators to come forward. “This requires an in-depth analysis to investigate the issues and to see where the problem is. We’re not necessarily looking for blood here, we just want a thorough look at the problem.”

While the Women of Honour has not participated in the review process, it has encouraged a large number of other people who have come forward with allegations to make contact with the IRG.

Asked about the status of the interim report, the Department of Defence, said the IRG’s terms of reference call for the final report to be submitted to the Minister by the end of the year before being brought to Government and then published.

A spokeswoman said Mr Coveney has received “intermittent updates” from the IRG to date. This includes a request to appoint a fourth member “to help conclude the group’s work, a request which was recently approved”.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times