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Karina Molloy (left) and Yvonne O'Rourke from the Women of Honour group outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following their meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney. PA
Defence Forces

Women of Honour group slams 'pointless' review into Defence Forces sexual misconduct allegations

The Women of Honour group walked out of a meeting with Simon Coveney today and said it would not be participating.

LAST UPDATE | 25 Jan 2022

SIMON COVENEY, THE Minister for Defence has secured Government approval for an independent review into allegations of sexual misconduct, bullying and harassment in the Defence Forces. 

Coveney said the review will be chaired by a Judge and it will be undertaken by “external and unbiased experts in the field”. He had pledged to undertake the review in September of last year.

However, the Women of Honour group, who have alleged they were sexually assaulted and discriminated against while serving in the Irish Defence Forces, described the process as “pointless” and “shameful”.

They are looking for an independent inquiry into the allegations.

The group met the Minister earlier today but walked out of the meeting.

In a statement, they said: “Our resumed meeting today, which was adjourned from December 16th so the Minister could reflect further, was a waste of our time.  We walked out after an hour as the Minister said he was not prepared to change his position.

They criticised the terms of the review and said that they see “no reason” for it, while saying the rest of Government “should over-rule him again and opt for a statutory Investigation rather than kicking the can down the road yet again.” 

Independent review

The Department said that the review membership will be totally independent and will be given any access it requires to records or personnel, in both the Defence Forces and the Department.  

Coveney confirmed that he has appointed retired Judge Bronagh O’Hanlon as Chair of the Group, along with Jane Williams, SIA Partners and Mark Connaughton SC.

“I have been very clear in my determination to address these matters without delay,” said the Minister. “Both I and officials in my Department have engaged in recent months with a number of stakeholders including both serving and former members of the Defence Forces, including the original Women of Honour Group, other Groups and the Representative Associations, PDFORRA and RACO. 

These engagements have brought serious issues to my attention and I have considered very carefully the respective views. It is absolutely critical that I proceed with this review to ensure that the workplace is safe for all serving members. In this endeavour, I believe I have the wholehearted support of serving personnel.

Coveney also said that Ruth Fitzgerald SC is to conduct an independent assessment of the specific actions taken by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces on foot of extensive correspondence received from a retired Defence Force member, in relation to allegations of sexual abuse.

This is a discrete assessment and the outcome will be made available to the Independent Review Group once completed.

The Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (Raco) said they met the Minister today and said they feel it is time for the inquiry to get underway. 

“All parties were in agreement that this process now needs to commence without further delay and we will continue to work with the Minister, his Department and Military Management to make our organisation a safer and more healthy place to work.

“While there wasn’t full consensus in the room, we have received assurances from the Department that the issues of disagreement can be addressed with the members of the Independent Review Group in the course of its work.

“We await clarification on a number of key points, and until this is received we are not in a position to make any further comment,” the Raco statement said. 

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