Garda and Defence Forces urge military sex abuse victims to come forward

Allegations relate to abuse of male and female soldiers, often by senior personnel

The Defence Forces has been accused of failing to act on allegations of sexual abuse by Defence Forces personnel in the past. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

The Defence Forces has been accused of failing to act on allegations of sexual abuse by Defence Forces personnel in the past. Photograph: Colin Keegan/Collins Dublin

 

The Garda and the Defence Forces have appealed for victims of sexual abuse in the military to come forward after reviewing dozens of allegations of historical abuse.

Anthony O’Brien, a former sergeant in the Defence Forces, has been gathering accounts of historical sexual abuse within the military since last May following contacts with veterans and their families.

The allegations relate to sexual abuse of both male and female soldiers, often by senior personnel, and abuse of children in the residential area of the Curragh Camp in Kildare over decades.

The allegations have been passed on to Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, who, in turn, sent them on to the Garda. He also ordered that they be treated as protected disclosures under whistleblower legislation.

Mr O’Brien has accused the Defence Forces of failing to act on allegations of sexual abuse by Defence Forces personnel in the past and has called for a public inquiry and redress for the victims.

However, the Garda has told the military it is not treating the allegations as evidence of systemic, widespread abuse warranting a single, large investigation. Instead, fresh allegations will be treated as individual complaints.

Perpetrators

The Garda believes the complaints of sexual abuse, while largely credible, reflect the level of sexual abuse within Irish society and its institutions in the 20th century, rather than any innate issue with the Defence Forces.

Gardaí from the National Protective Services Bureau have met Mr O’Brien since he first start submitting the accounts in May.

Officers have assessed the complaints collated by Mr O’Brien and determined some have already been investigated, and in some cases prosecuted. In others, the perpetrators since passed away.

A Garda spokesman said it cannot comment on individual cases and that the force “is not currently investigating any complaints of systemic historical sex abuse at the Curragh Army camp as suggested”.

“An Garda Síochána has both reviewed and formally investigated a number of individual complaints in the past,” he said.

He appealed for anyone who suffered adult or child sexual abuse to come forward to the Garda and make a report. “Irrespective of when that abuse occurred, anyone doing so will be dealt with in a confidential and sensitive manner.”

Safety

Mr Coveney and the department have so far declined to open their own inquiry into allegations and have said they are matters for the Garda. The Minister has encouraged victims to come forward.

The Defence Forces said it takes its members’ safety and wellbeing “extremely seriously” and urged anyone with information of alleged criminality, “recent or historic”, to come forward to gardaí. “Óglaigh na hÉireann will fully comply with any potential investigation.”

It also detailed various channels within the Defence Forces through which people can make a complaint, including through the military police and “designated contact persons”.