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Opposition parties call for inquiry into abuse in the Defence Forces

Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and Labour have called for an independent inquiry into the issue, which was revealed in an RTÉ documentary today.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

OPPOSITION PARTIES HAVE called for Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney to take action on abuse in the Defence Forces, after an RTÉ documentary on the issue was broadcast this afternoon.

The radio documentary special, titled “Women of Honour”, details experiences of former female members of the Defence Forces, including sexual harassment and discrimination against women with children.

Sinn Féin, the Social Democrats and Labour have called for an independent inquiry into the issue.

In a press statement, Sinn Féin’s Defence Spokesperson Sorca Clarke said: “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.”

“I support survivors’ calls for an independent inquiry into these allegations”, Clarke said. “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.

She added: “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.”

The documentary came on the back of whistleblower allegations of abuse in the forces earlier this year.

Labour’s Defence Spokesperson Mark Wall said: “I, and I’m sure the whole country, am deeply disturbed by the content of RTÉ’s ‘Women of Honour’ documentary. The situations described are horrific. No woman should ever have to experience what was described in the show.”

“The Minister needs to immediately appoint an 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.
“RTÉ and Katie Hannon must be commended for ensuring that the public hear the voices of these women. It reiterates the crucial importance and value of journalism within society. However, there remains more questions than answers,” he said.

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Gary Gannon, the Social Democrats’ defence spokesperson, said in a press statement: “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.

“It is clear that there remains a culture of bullying, misogyny and discrimination against women that is not only tolerated, but continues to thrive in today’s defence forces”, Gannon said. “This is not acceptable. Neither are attempts by the defence forces, and the Department of Defence, to brush this scandal under a rug. Repeated efforts by these women to have their complaints of sexual abuse, discrimination and harassment investigated seriously, and credibly, have failed.”

“I will further be calling for the Minister for Defence, and the Secretary General of his Department, to come to our Committee to answer questions about the length of time he has been aware of these complaints and to request an independent investigation into this toxic culture.”

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