Abuse issues adding to recruitment crisis in Defence Forces, warns PDForra

Representative group’s conference told just 7% of Defence Forces members are female

Issues of sexual harassment and bullying of women in the Defence Forces will have to be addressed if the organisation is to retain and attract female members, the general secretary of the Permanent Defence Forces Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra) has said.

Gerard Guinan told the opening day of the group’s conference in Killarney, Co Kerry that just 7 per cent of Defence Forces members were female.

He said he supported an external review announced by Minister for Defence Simon Coveney into the abuse allegations raised in RTÉ’s recent Women of Honour documentary and that he was calling on his colleagues to do likewise.

Mr Guinan said he was “shocked and appalled” by the revelations broadcast and that there was no place in the Defence Forces for the conduct described.


“If we are to retain women in the Defence Forces these incidents have to be addressed,” he said. “There can be no hiding ground for this type of behaviour within the Defence Forces.”


PDForra, he said, had assisted women who came to it with allegations of harassment, but in many instances those affected went straight to the Garda or to commanding officers given the serious nature of the matters.

Mr Guinan said the organisation had last year highlighted what it believed was a slippage in terms of accountability and had assisted women with submitting complaints to be investigated by the military authorities.

However, he said the outcomes of these investigations were in some instances “poor” and some female members ultimately had to seek vindication through legal processes.

The three-day PDForra conference is to discuss what it described as a “severe” crisis in recruitment to the Defence Forces, with the numbers enlisted now around 1,000 below the “establishment” figure of 9,500.

Membership figures show that in the last five years the gap between those leaving and joining the Defence Forces has been close to 500. If this is to continue, the membership would be around 8,000 in five years’ time, PDForra said.

‘Not sustainable’

“This personnel deficiency is simply not sustainable,” Mr Guinan said as he paid tribute to the work of members in responding to Covid-19. “They have made an outstanding contribution during this pandemic.”

President Michael D Higgins, the supreme commander of the Defence Forces, and a long-time supporter of calls for better pay and conditions for personnel, is to address the conference on Wednesday.

Delegates will also hear calls for PDForra to be brought under the umbrella of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The move has been strongly opposed by the leadership of the Defence Forces in the past amid fears that a major security situation could arise if members had the right to strike.

Informed sources have previously said PDForra is not interested in securing a right to strike but rather wants to be represented in pay talk