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Wednesday 4 October 2023 Dublin: 14°C File photo
# Defence Forces
Women of Honour 'shocked' by appointment of Department of Defence Sec Gen to new oversight body
New laws will be required to establish the oversight body on a statutory basis.

THE WOMEN OF Honour have said they are “shocked” at the appointment of the Secretary General of the Department of Defence as a member of the external overnight body tasked with driving necessary cultural change within the Defence Forces. 

It was confirmed yesterday that professor Brian McCraith, who also chaired the taskforce on Covid-19 vaccination and was President of DCU, will chair the oversight body. 

Four independent members have also been appointed to the body, along with Jacqui McCrum, Secretary General of the Department of Defence. 

Tánaiste Micheál Martin said yesterday 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 (IRG) 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 Women of Honour (WoH) 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.

In a statement last night, the WoH said they were “shocked” by the appointment of the Department of Defence’s Secretary General as a full members of the oversight body. 

The WoH said they will be seeking a meeting with the Taoiseach regarding her appointment. 

“The Tánaiste has said this External Oversight organisation is key to the transformation of culture in the Defence Forces. It is impossible to see how this is possible with the Department of Defence sitting on the body,” the WoH said in its statement. 

“This Oversight Body, which has come as a complete surprise to us .. despite the Tanaiste’s claims of a willingness to consult, is in some ways putting the cart before the horse – a Tribunal has yet to establish what went wrong, yet people are already trying to diagnose that separately,” the group said. 

The WoH added that “putting the Department of Defence on the body, while it is yet to be investigated for the ongoing abuse in the Defence Forces, is unbelievable”. 

“Only a root and branch review will change any organisation and having one of those organisations that is responsible for the existing rotten culture designing the new one is a flaw from the outset.”

The appointments have been made without consultation with the Women of Honour, Martin said yesterday. 

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

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.”

With reporting by Eimer McAuley

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