INDEPENDENT EXPERTS WILL carry out a review into abuse experienced in the Defence Forces, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney has confirmed.
The minister met with participants from the Women of Honour group and with a group of serving female members of the Defence Forces this afternoon in Dublin.
The women, who have alleged they were sexually assaulted and discriminated against while serving in the Irish Defence Forces, had called for an independent inquiry into the allegations.
An RTÉ radio documentary aired the women’s accounts of alleged sexual abuse, discrimination and harassment by male colleagues and senior members of the Defence Forces.
Speaking after the meetings today, Coveney expressed his gratitude to the women for taking the time to meet with him for what were very informative meetings.
“I wish to express my deep appreciation to those women, both serving and former members of the Defence Forces for sharing their experiences with me,” he said.
“The issues they have raised are of the utmost seriousness and need to be addressed in the most comprehensive way possible.
“It is clear to me, the Chief of Staff Designate and the Secretary General that there are very strong views from both meetings that the culture that is pervading and the application of the current policies, systems and procedures in place for dealing with bullying, harassment, discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault have not and are not serving all Defence Forces personnel well.
“I would like to say sorry to anyone who has suffered during their time in the Defence Forces and assure them the State will now urgently carry out an Independent Review.
The minister added:
Let me be quite clear on this. The Independent Review that will be established to examine the effectiveness of those policies and procedures, will be undertaken by external and entirely independent and unbiased experts in this field. It is additionally my intention to bring the final Report from that Review to Government.
He confirmed that the terms of the review, which are in the process of being finalised, are being reviewed in light of recent meetings with both the Women of Honour group and serving female personnel.
Other stakeholder meetings, including with the representative associations, will also inform the terms.
The minister further confirmed that he will immediately look to establish interim solutions for supports for Defence Forces members, past or present, who are affected by these issues.
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Coveney paid tribute to the Women of Honour group and to those serving personnel who have spoken out, stating that he wishes to commend the women for their service and commitment to the Defence Forces.
He said the women are seeking change to ensure that the Defence Forces of the future is “a place where inappropriate behaviour is not tolerated and where all individuals, both female and male, can reach their full potential”.
Coveney said he is fully committed “to ensuring that each and every single member of the Defence Forces has the right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties in a safe workplace, underpinned by a culture of zero-tolerance for any kind of bullying, discrimination, or harassment”.