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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# Defence Forces
Ex-vaccine tsar to chair oversight body formed in wake of Defence Forces abuse probe
New laws will be required to establish the oversight body on a statutory basis.

THE EXTERNAL OVERSIGHT body tasked with driving necessary cultural change within the Defence Forces is to be chaired by Professor Brian MacCraith, who also chaired the taskforce on Covid-19 vaccination and was President of DCU. 

Josephine Feehily, who has chaired the Pensions Commission, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners and the Policing Authority of Ireland, and Patricia King, who served as ICTU General Secretary for seven years, have also been appointed to the new oversight body. 

Martin said that these are “good appointments”, and that they evidence how “seriously” the Government is taking both allegations of abuse within the Defence Forces, and the recommendations made in the report from the Independent Review Group on abuse allegations. 

That report, published last month, found that cases of bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment continue to persist within the Defence Forces. 

The appointment has been made without consultation with the Women of Honour, Tanaiste and Defence Minister Micheál Martin said today. 

When asked why the group, which has campaigned to bring cases of abuse to light, was not consulted on the appointments that have been made to the external oversight body, Martin said that it is key that the body is “external of everyone”.

New laws will be required to establish the oversight body on a statutory basis.

The Defence Act, 1954 will have to be amended to allow all allegations of rape, or aggravated sexual assault in the Defence Forces in the State be referred to An Garda Síochána for investigation.

There will also be a significant programme of reform and culture change delivered by external experts, with measures to eradicate reprisals and retaliation, and develop new policies on gender, inclusion and diversity.

The IRG report warned: “Change is required to rebuild what is clearly broken in existing systems. The recommendations in this report are radical and, if implemented, will be far-reaching.

“A failure to implement the recommendations will mean a further regression and the Defence Forces’ position could deteriorate beyond repair.”

A statutory inquiry will also be established into the claims. Speaking in the Dáil last week Martin said: 

“What’s important now is that we quickly build on it and a Statutory Inquiry is one of the logical and necessary next steps, examining how complaints have been dealt with.

“I want to assure the House that I will bring forward Terms of Reference for this Inquiry as soon as possible, engaging with stakeholders in their preparation.”

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