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Sunday 28 May 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Tom Honan via Minister Simon Coveney (file photo)
# Defence Forces
Coveney urges anyone with information on alleged abuse in the Curragh to contact gardaí
A whistleblower says a number of people have contacted him about incidents of alleged sexual abuse and assault.

DEFENCE MINISTER SIMON Coveney has urged anyone with information of alleged abuse at the Curragh Camp to contact An Garda Síochána.

Coveney was responding to issues raised by Sinn Féin TD Patricia Ryan, who asked the minister through a parliamentary question if he will establish an inquiry into “allegations of systemic sexual abuse and the covering up of sexual abuse in the Curragh Camp”.

A whistleblower has contacted Ryan and a number of other politicians, including the Taoiseach and Coveney, about allegations of sexual assault and abuse at the camp.

The man, a former sergeant, has also contacted gardaí.

The Curragh Camp, located in Co Kildare, is the main training centre for the Defence Forces. spoke to the whistleblower today. The former sergeant was in the Defence Forces for over 20 years.

He alleges he was sexually assaulted by an officer in the Defence Forces in the 1980s. He posted about his experience online and a number of people contacted him saying they were also assaulted or harassed, often by a member of a higher rank, while working in the Defence Forces.

The whistleblower said he is aware of a number of incidences of “abuse of rank for sexual favours” within the Defence Forces.

Both men and women have told him they were sexually assaulted and harassed by their colleagues in the Defence Forces.

The dates of the allegations range from the 1980s to the 2000s.

‘Contact gardaí’

Ryan said some of the details of the allegations of sexual abuse are “horrific”.

The TD for Kildare South told that a number of people have contacted her office about the allegations. 

Ryan said she is encouraging anyone with relevant information to contact gardaí.

“We do recommend people that people go to An Garda Síochána. We will do what we can from our end, as public representatives, to help them,” she said.

Ryan confirmed that the whistleblower contacted her office on 18 February and has since provided more details related to the allegations.

In response to the issues raised by Ryan, the Department of Defence issued a statement in which Coveney said he “urges anyone with information of alleged criminality to present that information to an Garda Síochána”.

“An Garda Síochána are the only competent authority in the State with the expertise and powers to investigate these matters.

“Where such information is provided to the Minister, it is treated in confidence and brought to the attention of the relevant authorities.”

In the statement, Coveney also advised “anyone who may have been subject to such abuse to seek professional help and guidance which is available from State agencies such as the HSE or from registered charities specialising in this area”.

The minister added that this query is “not specific to his policy brief and that it has a wider community relevance”.

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces said: “Óglaigh na hÉireann urges anyone with information of alleged criminality to present that information to an Garda Síochána. An Garda Síochána are the only competent authority in the State with the expertise and powers to investigate these matters.”

A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána told us: “Gardaí would urge victims of sexual abuse to report matters at their local Garda Station regardless of when the alleged incident(s) may have occurred.”

Investigation needed

Dr Tom Clonan, a former Captain in the Defence Forces, previously uncovered cases of harassment, sexual harassment and sexual assault including rape in the Defence Forces.

Clonan, who had received permission from the Defence Forces to carry out the research as part of his phD, was “warned to remain silent and threatened with a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign” if he went public with the information.

After the media published his research, a 2003 independent inquiry accepted Clonan’s findings but it wasn’t until nearly two decades later that the Defence Forces publicly acknowledged his contribution. In November 2019, he met with the Defence Forces Chief of Staff to talk about a reconciliation process.

Clonan today called for all the allegations made by the latest whistleblower to be thoroughly investigated.

Clonan, who is aware of the details of a number of the new allegations, said the claims “fit the pattern of behaviour I observed in my research 20 years ago”.

“It’s almost a photocopy in terms of the pattern of abusing trust, abusing power, to target and assault a vulnerable person, whether that vulnerable person is a female soldier or a male soldier.”

Clonan told he hopes that military authorities have learned lessons from how he was treated in the past.

“Despite all of the oversight and corroboration and research that was carried out to the very highest standards, there was still huge pushback and gaslighting from certain quarters. I would hope there isn’t a repeat of that.”

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Have you been affected by any of the issues raised in this article? If you’d like to get in touch in confidence, email or contact me on Threema: ZVHKV6VD