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women of honour

Confidential contact appointed for former and serving Defences Force members

This person will listen and assist members “in documenting their allegations and to provide guidance.”

A CONFIDENTIAL CONTACT Person is to be appointed to assist former and serving members of the Defence Forces affected by bullying, harassment, sexual harassment and gender discrimination. 

It comes after Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney met with five women who took part in the RTÉ documentary Women of Honour in which allegations were made of bullying, harassment, sexual assault and rape within the Defence Forces.

Coveney announced today a Confidential Contact Person (CCP) will be available to former and serving members on a confidential basis. 

This person will listen and assist members “in documenting their allegations and to provide guidance on follow-on options open to them,” the Department said in a statement. 

“These options will differ depending on whether the individual involved is a serving or former member of the Defence Forces and on the nature of the allegations.

“This will allow each individual to make an informed decision in relation to next steps regarding their allegations. The CCP is entirely independent and outside of the Defence Forces Chain of Command.”

The role has been set up following an agreement with Raiseaconcern, an organisation working with private sector and public bodies on issues relating to workplace wrongdoing.

Raiseaconcern will provide Coveney with periodic updates on the number and types of cases and issues they are seeing, but strictly on an anonymised basis. This information will also inform the Independent Review process, which is due to begin before the end of the year. 

Coveney said today his Department and the Defence Forces are engaging with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in terms of assistance for both serving and former personnel who have suffered sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape.

“I have consistently said that such serious allegations should be reported to the Gardaí without delay, as they are the competent authority to investigate such actions,” the Minister said.

“However, I am fully cognisant of the trauma suffered by the victims and I am pleased and grateful that the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, who are professionally trained in this area, have offered their services, in cooperation with my Department and the Defence Forces, to both serving and former members of the Defence Forces.”

Meanwhile , rank and file members of the Irish Defence Forces will discuss internal complaints mechanisms and the Women of Honour scandal at their annual conference this week. 

PDFORRA represents all ranks in the non-commissioned elements of the army, navy and air corps – its annual conference began in Killarney yesterday.

The three-day meeting will see 150 delegates gather to discuss the worsening retention crisis, access to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, allowances and the use of the European Working Time agreement. 

Contracts for personnel who joined post 1994 is seen as a major issue among members as it could see personnel across all branches being forced to retire, and deplete the ranks further. 

There will also be discussions around the administration of complaints by members, and other service matters. Contained within that discussion will be the allegations of sexual harassment made by female members against senior officers. 

Coveney confirmed last week that independent experts will carry out a review into abuse experienced in the Defence Forces. The minister met with participants from the Women of Honour group and with a group of serving female members of the Defence Forces.

The women, who alleged they were sexually assaulted and discriminated against while serving in the Irish Defence Forces, had called for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

With reporting by Niall O’Connor

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