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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
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# Defence Forces
Further engagement promised with Women of Honour after draft terms of reference circulated
Minister of Defence Micheál Martin met with six representative groups today.

TÁNAISTE AND MINISTER of Defence Micheál Martin today circulated to representative groups draft terms of reference for a statutory inquiry into allegations of harassment and abuse in the Irish Defence Forces. 

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Martin said he met with six groups today, including The Women of Honour (WoH) group, who are number of female Defence Forces members who acted as whistleblowers in regard to their own treatment over bullying and sexual harassment in their military lives.

He also met with the Defence Women’s Network, the Representative Associations (RACO, PDFORRA, RDFRA), and the Men and Women of Honour group. 

In addition, meetings took place with the Veteran Associations and with Civil and Civilian Employee Unions. 

Martin said the draft terms of reference were circulated to groups so they could come back with suggestions on the final draft. He described the meetings today as “good” and “lengthy” today.

He said there will be further engagement and further consultations before Government firms up the final terms of reference for the inquiry.  

An inquiry was announced after the publication of the Independent Review Group (IRG) report on abuse allegations which was published recently. It found that cases of bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment continue to persist within the Defence Forces. 

A statement from the WoH group after today’s meeting said it will review the draft terms, but said:

“It is disappointing that the Tánaiste and the Department of Defence seek to design draft terms of reference without any consultations with us or any other victims. We remain with a feeling that the Government seeks to railroad through us and others without any courtesy or respect.

“It smells of the same institutional abuse as victims endured in the Defence Forces. Meetings should have been held to agree a process on the terms of reference. Nothing less than a full public tribunal to ascertain the truth will work. The people of Ireland deserve the truth.”

Speaking to The Journal after today’s meeting with the minister, Diane Byrne, a former Irish Defence Forces officer, said that the group will take the minister at his word and in “good faith”, but that they are skeptical. 

She said there were concerns, that just like with the IRG report, that the terms of references are “too narrow”. 

Byrne said victims are concerned that the inquiry will not deal with accountability in terms of holding specific people to account.

Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Seán Clancy has previously said there are people that perpetrated abuses still within the organisation.

While Clancy said that while there are good men and women within the organisation, there are people in areas of the Defence Forces who “perpetrated some of these inappropriate behaviors”. 

“I’ve always said, and I continue to say, this is not a historical issue in the organisation. This is an issue that exists today,” he added.

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