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Members of the Women of Honour group (left to right) Roslyn O'Callaghan, Yvonne O Rourke, Honor Murphy and Diane Byrne. Alamy Stock Photo

Ministers, civil service conduct will be investigated in judge led tribunal into military abuse

In documents seen by The Journal the draft terms of the judge led investigation lays out five measures to be addressed.

 A TRIBUNAL INTO allegations of military abuse will examine the conduct of Ministers for Defence and their departments along with military leaders, according to documents seen by The Journal.

The draft terms of the judge-led investigation lays out five measures to be addressed, but a group representing victims has criticised the terms of reference for the inquiry.

The terms include an examination of complaint processes in the Defence Forces and whether these allegations were handled appropriately. 

There will also be an investigation into whether complainants suffered reprisals or if there were efforts to deter them from continuing. 

The last term of reference states that there will be an investigation of the statutory role of the Minister for Defence and their department. This will look at the “nature and performance” of the body. 

The Women of Honour, a group of former and serving members of the Irish Defence Forces who have highlighted allegations of abuse in the military, have criticised the Tánaiste Micheál Martin and the terms of reference.  

The group’s original complaints initiated the Independent Review Group which was published earlier this year detailing a catalogue of abuse allegations.

The Women of Honour along with other parties were given the terms of reference last week. 

They released a statement today criticising the process and said the terms of reference were too narrow. 

They criticised the use of the phrase “trips, slips and falls” by the Tánaiste Micheál Martin in a letter he sent to the group. 

Martin, who is the Minister for Defence, made the reference when discussing the wide interpretation of of legislation around the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act. 

The group want to have that included in the terms of reference while the Minister said that this would capture too broad a category of incidents. 

“The process of negotiating the terms of reference for this Tribunal has been long and frustrating.

“While it is a step forward that the political actions and failures of at least 20 former Ministers for Defence and four former and current Taoisigh who served as Ministers for Defence will be investigated, the Tánaiste has still some blind spots in these terms of reference.

“By excluding “incidents of abuse” and confining the Inquiry to investigating complaints of abuse, as per the flawed IRG report, it will exclude the 77 % of Defence Force Personnel who declined to make complaints as they believed there was no point in lodging a complaint due to the already evident toxic repercussions it would bring on oneself,” the group said. 

The Women of Honour statement said that they are unhappy that the investigation will examine the systemic failures but not individual complaints. 

“Furthermore, by not allowing expansion of the definition of abuse, or confining the definition to what the Dept of Defence requires, disallows the Judge from having the discretion to investigate any untoward activities outside the specific and narrow wording in the Terms of Reference relating to abuse,” the group added. 

The Department of Defence said in a statement today that the Tánaiste “intends to revert to Government in the coming weeks to seek approval for the Terms of Reference and the appointment of a judge to chair the tribunal”.