Women of Honour: ‘Shocking’ Defence Forces allegations are subject of ‘watershed’ report, says Martin

Review examined group’s allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, discrimination and bullying in Defence Forces

Micheál Martin said there had to be 'fundamental change' in the Defence Forces

An independent review into the allegations made by the Women of Honour group is “very far reaching” and makes a “significant range of recommendations”, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin said he would be “resolute” in following through on the recommendations regarding the Defence Forces and believed the publication of the report will be a “watershed moment”.

The Tánaiste, who is also the Minister for Defence, said he wants to bring the report to the Government next week for consideration.

Speaking in the Dáil on Thursday, the Fianna Fáil leader said what happened to members of the Defence Force was “shocking and disgraceful” and there had to be “fundamental change”.


Mr Martin was answering questions from a number of TDs on the issue in the chamber, including Sinn Féin’s Mark Ward and Sorcha Clarke, Robert Troy (FF) and Catherine Connolly (Ind).

The allegations of the Women of Honour group first came to light in an RTÉ documentary in 2021, prompting then Minister for Defence Simon Coveney to establish an Independent Review Group.

From the archive - Opinion: Defence Forces have known about abuse of women personnel for 20 yearsOpens in new window ]

The group, made up of former Defence Force members, made detailed allegations of sexual abuse, harassment, discrimination and bullying.

Mr Martin said he had received the final report of the Independent Review Group last month and was considering it in consultation with the Attorney General.

The Tánaiste said he would recommend a decision in relation to the report’s findings and wanted to meet the Women of Honour group as well as other groups both before and following the report’s publication.

He said the Government would have to identify and formulate a response to the recommendations that can be presented to the groups as well as the Dáil and wanted a debate on the issue in the chamber.

“Despite the reforms that have taken place in the Defence Forces over the past 20 years with regards to dignity and equality matters, it is clear from the experiences shared by both current and former member of the Defence Forces, including the Women of Honour group and the Men and Women of Honour group, that the culture that is prevailing and the application of policies, systems and procedures for dealing with unacceptable behaviour have not and are not serving all Defence Forces personnel well,” Mr Martin said.

The Tánaiste said there were “many recommendations” in the report but didn’t want to “get into the specifics” and would not reveal whether it had recommended a statutory inquiry.

“I can absolutely say I am going to be resolute in following through on this [report] because I do believe it will be a watershed moment,” he added.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times