Defence Forces ‘fully supports’ independent review in wake of abuse allegations

Organisation commends bravery of former members who reported sexual harassment

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney announced the review in the wake of an RTÉ radio documentary.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney announced the review in the wake of an RTÉ radio documentary. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The Defence Forces has commended the bravery of former female members who made allegations of abuse and sexual harassment in the organisation.

In a statement, Óglaigh na hÉireann said it “welcomes and fully supports” an independent review of policies and procedures in place for dealing with workplace issues such as harassment, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney announced the review in the wake of an RTÉ radio documentary broadcast over the weekend, entitled ‘Women of Honour’. In the programme, former female members of the Defence Forces disclosed allegations of abuse and called for reform of the institution.

Karina Molloy (59), who was the first woman to reach senior non-commissioned officer rank as company quartermaster sergeant and is now retired, told The Irish Times that incidents such as those detailed in the documentary “are still going on” in Óglaigh na hÉireann.

Ms Molloy spoke of experiencing sustained sexual harassment by a senior officer, but her complaint would not be taken as this was “breaking the chain of command”, she said.

The officer attempted to rape her, she alleges, when he arrived at her room after midnight, “very drunk”, but she was able to push him off and ran out of the room.

She and others in the Women of Honour group are calling for an independent inquiry and for Mr Coveney to “acknowledge and apologise” for “what happened and is continuing to happen” .

Deputy Chief of Staff for the Defence Forces, Major General Seán Clancy, said the organisation will “continue to fully support, facilitate and co-operate with any review or investigation to address all of the issues raised”.

Members of the Defence Forces “have the right to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace and we are committed to ensuring that all personnel are provided with a safe working environment”, he said.

Óglaigh na hÉireann has “come a long way” since its workplace procedures were examined by an external committee in 2002, the statement added. The organisation has adopted recommendations and it continually strives to improve, it said.

“We fully recognise that further progress and work is required to ensure that incidents of harassment, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination are identified and fully investigated.

“Óglaigh na hÉireann is committed to being an employer of choice on the island of Ireland and will continue to prioritise the safety of our members whilst serving at home and overseas by implementing the necessary measures and reforms deemed necessary to achieve this,” it said.