Whistleblower who exposed rape in Defence Forces thanked 20 years on

Dr Tom Clonan acknowledged for his service by Chief of Staff at Curragh Camp

A former Army officer who uncovered rape and sexual assault in the Defence Forces has been thanked two decades later for the work he undertook.

Dr Tom Clonan, a retired Army officer, met Defence Forces Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Mark Mellett at the Military College, Pearse Barracks, Curragh Camp, Co Kildare.

It is the first time Dr Clonan - now an author, lecturer and security analyst - has been acknowledged by the Defence Forces for the contribution his studies made to advancing equality and dignity in the military.

On Thursday Dr Clonan and DCU's head of diversity and inclusion Sandra Healy delivered an inaugural annual lecture to senior Defence Forces officers "on the power of diversity and inclusion in our armed forces".


Ms Healy described the research by Dr Clonan as “ground-breaking” in that it documented “bullying, sexual harassment and the sexual assault of soldiers within the Irish Defence Forces” and welcomed his “reconciliation” with the organisation.

“His PhD led to an independent government enquiry in 2003, which fully vindicated his findings and recommendations, and in turn transformed the equality culture of the Irish Defence Forces,” she said.

“I believe today sends a very powerful and positive signal to all of Irish society by empowering organisations and researchers to accept difficult findings and move forward in partnership.”

As part of his thesis, completed in 2000 for his studies in DCU, Dr Clonan interviewed female members of the Defence Forces. He said 59 out of 60 had revealed traumatic experiences of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.


He has outlined down the years that when he submitted his thesis, in gender equality, in 2000, he was an Army officer who was happy in his work, was valued and had command experience of dangerous overseas missions.

He retired at that point, as planned, but only after being told by some in military management that he was a “rat” and that his findings were not credible.

The conclusions of his thesis research became known to the media in 2001, at which point Dr Clonan said the Defence Forces attacked his credibility and that of his research, with acrimony continuing in the years since.

“Unfortunately my relationship with the organisation remained broken. For two decades, I remained isolated from former colleagues,” he said.

“My contribution to the transformation of Defence Forces’ culture remained unacknowledged. Nor did I ever receive an apology for the whistleblower reprisals perpetrated against me and my family when my research became public.”

However, he was contacted last June by Vice Admiral Mark Mellett and met him in September to discuss the events since 2000-2001, leading to being invited today to address military personnel.

Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times