Coveney ‘concerned’ about sexual harassment allegations in Defence Forces

Minister for Defence says he would meet the women who made the allegations

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney says he is concerned about allegations of sexual harassment in the Irish Defence Forces. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney says he is concerned about allegations of sexual harassment in the Irish Defence Forces. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has said he is concerned about allegations of sexual harassment made by women who served in the Irish Defence Forces.

The allegations were made by women who took part in the RTÉ radio programme, Women of Honour, which aired on Saturday.

They alleged sexual harassment, attempted sexual assault and bullying. The allegations spanned three decades.

In a statement released by the Department of Defence this morning, the Minister said he is committed to meeting the women who featured in the programme, should they wish to do so, and he will take steps to contact them.

According to the department, senior officials have met some of the people who were profiled in the RTÉ programme, and encouraged them to bring their complaints to the gardaí.

The women who featured in the programme called for an independent inquiry into the matter.

The department said that the terms of the independent review into harassment and bullying in the army will be finalised this week.

The terms of this review will also be reconsidered in light of the allegations made in the radio programme.

In the statement, Mr Coveney said he had “significant concern” about the allegations.

“All members of the Defence Forces have a right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of sexual harassment, harassment or bullying,” the statement read.

The Minister also spoke about correspondence he has received concerning similar allegations.

The correspondence is primarily from one source. Several allegations are outlined, including historical sexual assault allegations, which relate to events said to have occurred within the Permanent Defence Force.

Mr Coveney also said he would not comment on individual cases, as this would be a breach of privacy and some were already being reviewed. “It would be inappropriate for him to discuss individual cases, as it would be in relation to those cases which are within an independent adjudication process.”

The Minister was also aware of some of the complaints profiled in the RTÉ programme, but not the specific details of all.

The statement added that reforms in relation to sexual harassment have been introduced, but it is recognised that “further work needs to be done” within the Defence Forces.