A statutory inquiry is required in order to gain more information after a recent report detailed misogyny and sexual abuse in the Defence Forces, Sinn Féin TD Sorca Clarke has said.
Ms Clarke, who is her party’s defence spokesperson, said the findings of the report by an independent review group (IRG) were “incomplete” due to a lack of trust amongst members of the Defence Forces, including the Women of Honour group.
“What was contained in that report is not new information in its entirety,” said Ms Clarke to RTÉ's Morning Ireland on Thursday. “However, it is also not complete information. For example, we know the Women of Honour, while they supported people going through the IRG, themselves didn’t take part. So their fingerprint is nowhere on this report.
“And I know for a fact, because I have spoken with several members of the Defence Forces who didn’t engage in this, [that] the level of trust in reporting mechanisms has been so eroded that they simply didn’t feel that there was any point in engaging with this. And that’s where the real need of a statutory inquiry is, that was the Women of Honour specifically called for, that power of compellability.”
On Tuesday, a report was published that found that senior officers in the Defence Forces failed to bring about change across the military and presided over a toxic culture in which women were “barely tolerated”, sexual and physical abuse were common and bullying formed part of the training process.
Ms Clarke said the publication of the report was “an incredibly dark day” for the Defence Forces. She called on the Government to outline what measures will be taken place to address the recent findings. “(We want) to see very clearly from the Tánaiste and the Minister for Defence this afternoon is what the next steps are going to be...This cannot be allowed to sit. So what we need to see is the Tánaiste to come forward with a timeline around the legislative changes that need to be made to allow the reporting of sexual abuse allegations and sexual assault allegations to go to the gardaí.
“But in tandem with that, we also need to see the certain very clear and definitive timelines around the establishment of the statutory inquiry and its completion date and the other pieces of work that do not require any changes in legislation. Both will have an immediate impact.
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“This report details deliberately orchestrated, repeated and systemic abuse of power that not only served to dehumanise and humiliate people, but to strip people of their dignity, their safety. And in many cases, they lost their careers and in some cases they have lost their lives.
“Those good members of the Defence Forces need to see action. Those who have survived this abuse need to see action, and those who have perpetrated this abuse need to be held to account. But also what needs to be included in those terms of reference for the statutory inquiry is just how broad it is going to be, how far our government willing to go.”
Ms Clarke said any statutory inquiry should examine the role of all arms of the Defence forces, both permanent and reserve as well as the Department of Defence and relevant ministerial roles.
When asked if women should still feel comfortable joining the Defence Forces in light of the recent report, Ms Clarke acknowledged the difficult nature of the query. “It is very difficult time and it isn’t a question that I can answer,” she said. “I have never served in uniform. What I took from the chief of staff’s statement yesterday on the Six One News is that there is now finally a willingness, an acknowledgment to change and also a willingness, an acknowledgment that the failure to change is going to be detrimental to the force in its entirety.”