Defence Forces abuse inquiry receives ‘many’ new complaints

Interim report containing testimonies of serving and ex-members sent to Minister

A large number of former and serving members of the Defence Forces have come forward with complaints of abuse within the military since the Women of Honour veterans group highlighted the issue last year.

An interim report summarising the complaints has now been made to Minister for Defence Simon Coveney and will be passed on to a judge-led independent review group which is examining the issue.

Over several months, a "confidential contact person" (CCP) from the company Raiseaconcern, who was appointed by the Department of Defence, has been gathering testimonies from veterans and serving members, and helping them to give their accounts.

These anonymised testimonies will inform the ongoing review led by Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon into the issues raised by the Women on Honour in 2021.

In an RTÉ documentary last September, the group of female Defence Forces veterans detailed allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination. The women's careers suffered as a result while their perpetrators were able to progress up the ranks, they alleged.

In correspondence this week to one alleged victim of abuse, the CCP said it had made a “detailed interim report to the Minister” which sets out “the key themes arising from the many contacts made with us as CCP by serving and former members of the Defence Forces since October 2021”.

‘Inappropriate behaviour’

The CPP said the report contains anonymised summaries “of all cases where we have agreed written accounts of their experience with those who have come forward”, and it is understood Mr Coveney “will be making this information available to the IRG [Independent Review Group] to inform their work”.

The CCP added that serving or former members of the Defence Forces may still come forward to share details “of any inappropriate behaviour they have experienced”. These cases will be included in its next report to the Minister.

The department confirmed the interim report has been received. “I wish to thank Raiseaconcern for the very valuable work they are doing, and continue to do, in listening to and assisting callers in documenting their allegations and to provide guidance on follow-on options open to them,” Mr Coveney said.

“The report, is of course, entirely anonymised, and as agreed, I will be submitting it to the Independent Review Group, established last January, to examine dignity and equality issues in the Defence Forces workplace. This report will be an important input into the ongoing deliberations of that group.”

Earlier this week, Mr Coveney had what he called "a very fruitful meeting" with the IRG which includes senior counsel Mark Connaughton and HR specialist Jane Williams.

The Women of Honour group previously said it is disappointed with the format of the review. It had sought a statutory investigation which would have the power to compel witnesses to appear.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times