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Monday 25 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
Leah Farrell
# military abuse
Ex-army officer tells Dáil of offence culture & need for Chief of staff powers to suspend wrongdoers
Cathal Berry, TD, calls for discipline powers to be given to Chief of Staff to deal with alleged abusers in military.

A FORMER MILITARY officer and sitting TD has said that a culture of automatically taking offence at criticism has stymied efforts to deal with a toxic workplace identified in the Independent Review Group (IRG) into conduct in the Defence Forces. 

Cathal Berry, who is a former senior officer in the Army Ranger Wing, called on the Tánaiste Micheál Martin to give the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces the same powers as the Garda Commissioner to suspend people as investigations of wrongdoing are conducted. 

Berry was speaking during statements in the Dáil by TDs and the Minister for Defence on the IRG report into abuse and harassment in the military. 

He welcomed the report and called on those people who were identified as abusers to be dismissed out of the armed forces and welcomed an independent oversight body as well as a statutory enquiry. 

He identified two key issues around culture which is centred around an institutional inability to accept criticism.

“The first one is that our our forces are hypersensitive to criticism and I felt that myself that dissent is almost regarded as being unpatriotic or worse that it’s a manifestation of ill-discipline.

“When I came here after 23 years in the Armed Forces, the first skill I had to develop was the ability to take criticism without taking offence. So the first thing if we can change something in the defence forces, it’s removed as hypersensitivity to criticism,” he said. 

Berry also identified a second issue that he believes would help to solve the problem of complainants being treated badly.

He said that the military is rightfully “obsessed with excellence” but said this was having a negative outcome. 

“Excellence is important. But because of this obsession with image, they take complaints very, very poorly, that complaints are something that should be embraced, not something that should be resisted,” he added. 

He said a key solution for the Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Seán Clancy was to be given the power to suspend accused wrong doers. 

“Just one suggestion as well as I know the Garda Commissioner has the means and the legal authority to suspend somebody on full pay provided there’s enough evidence without prejudice to any investigation.

“The Chief of Staff doesn’t have that power,” he added. 


Tánaiste Micheál Martin did not address that point in his summation but earlier in his speech he spoke of confidence that military leadership understood the scale of the problem.  

“The implementation of the IRG’s recommendations will require a considerable and shared effort, not least on the part of the Defence Forces’ leadership and I’m confident following extensive discussions with the Chief of Staff that the scale of what is needed is understood.

“This week has been a very challenging period for the Defence Forces.  But for the good, professional people of integrity who do serve in the Defence Forces, it also marks a new start,” he said. 

Martin turned his attention to the perpetrators of “unacceptable, misogynistic or bullying behaviour” and said “this is the end of it. It simply has to stop”.

“You have no place, and no future in Oglaigh na hÉireann,” he added.


Richard Bruton, TD, had asked the Tánaiste in regard to how would the statutory inquiry operate. 

Martin said that a key pillar would be the ability of the tribunal to compel people to appear before it.

He added that this would not just involve the Defence Forces but the examination would also include the Department of Defence – adding that it will include examinations of senior management and officials.

The Tánaiste said that previous efforts to deal with the issue, such as the Independent Monitoring Group (IMG) were not effective.

The IMG was established in 2002 following reports into abuse and “negative behaviours” within the Defence organisation. 

In some commentary by Dáil deputies there were comments about the importance of solving the retention of staff and recruitment problems but Martin took a different view.

He said they would address the issues identified in regard to resourcing, staffing and capability but the problems identified in the IRG would have to be the focus.  

“We will be doing more but let’s not lose focus on what is fundamentally wrong here is the culture that is prevalent, throughout the forces,” he said. 

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