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‘Military Me Too’ Social Democrats and Sinn Féin call for inquiry into Defence Forces abuse claims

The TD's comments following an investigative programme broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1

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Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Social Democrats TD Gary Gannon. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Opposition parties’ Defence spokespersons have called for an independent enquiry into allegations of abuse in the Irish Defence Forces. 

They made their comments following an investigative programme broadcast on RTÉ Radio 1 today. Women of Honour made extensive allegations of sexual violence, bullying and misogyny within the Defence Forces.

Several former and serving female members of the forces shared their stories and experiences with presenter Katie Hannon. It has followed a ‘Military Me Too’ movement which has exposed a culture of similar practices in other countries.

Gary Gannon, defence spokesperson for the Social Democrats, called for a fully independent investigation and underlined the gravity of the allegations.

“Women Of Honour, an RTE documentary broadcast today (Saturday, September 11), contained horrifying stories of female members of the defence forces being sexually degraded, harassed, abused and assaulted,” he said in a statement.

“Journalist Kate Hannon interviewed eight brave whistle-blowers, five of whom have spoken publicly about the disgusting abuse they suffered for the first time. Seven of these women reported their abuse, but, shockingly, no male officer was ever charged with any sexual crime.

“The women subjected to this violent and degrading treatment have been left scarred, personally and professionally, by the abuse they suffered. Meanwhile, the careers of their male abusers flourished, as they walked away with barely a slap on the wrist.”

Labour’s defence spokesperson Mark Wall called for a “root and branch review” as to what has been going on in the forces.

“I, and I’m sure the whole country, am deeply disturbed by the content of RTÉ’s ‘Women of Honour’ documentary,” said Wall in a statement. “The situations described are horrific. No woman should ever have to experience what was described in the show. The Minister needs to immediately appoint at independent person to investigate the culture and practices as they relate to misogyny, harassment and bullying within the Forces. There must be a root and branch review of what is going on.

“It’s deeply troubling to hear women say that when they do not feel that they do not have the power or the support to report incidences of harassment, and even some who do report it are given inadequate support to work through it or their reports are not followed through. There needs to be a higher standard within the forces. Victims of harassment should feel safe and empowered to report. Otherwise perpetrators trade off that silence. There must be consequences for the actions of perpetrators and support for any victim of harassment or assault.”

“These allegations of sexual violence, harassment, abuse and discrimination within the Defence Forces are very serious and deeply concerning,” said Sinn Féin’s defence spokesperson Sorca Clarke in a statement.

“I want to commend all those who have bravely come forward to share their stories. The Defence Forces have a responsibility to act on these allegations and ensure that they are addressed urgently. There must be a zero tolerance approach to all forms of harassment, bullying and violence in all workplaces.”

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Sorca Clarke has called for an independent inquiry into claims of abuse in the Defence Forces

Sorca Clarke has called for an independent inquiry into claims of abuse in the Defence Forces

Sorca Clarke has called for an independent inquiry into claims of abuse in the Defence Forces

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Clarke also called for urgent action to access the scale and extent of abuse, and for Minister Simon Coveney to waive any non-disclosure agreements relating to settlements.

“I support survivors’ calls for an independent inquiry into these allegations. It is imperative that immediate action is taken to establish the extent of these issues and ensure that steps are taken to ensure justice for survivors.

“Minister Coveney must now waive any non-disclosure agreements in relation to settlements paid to members of the defence forces to facilitate survivors in coming forward to discuss their experiences of abuse should they choose to. No survivor should feel silenced and prevented from sharing their story due to the threat of an NDA.

“The Minister must also meet with those involved with the Women of Honour group as a priority in order to listen to their concerns and their calls for action. These survivors’ stories must not be silenced and survivors must be afforded the respect and dignity of sharing their stories if they choose to do so.”

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