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18/09/2021

NATIONAL: Government urged to set up inquiry into Defence Forces allegations

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The Government has been urged to set up inquiry into Defence Forces allegations

The Government has been urged to set up an independent inquiry into allegations of abuse within the Defence Forces.

The calls follow an investigation broadcast by RTÉ Radio One, revealing a series of allegations relating to conduct within the Defence Forces.

Titled 'Women of Honour', the programme detailed the experiences of former female members and included accounts from women who spoke of incidents of alleged sexual abuse.

The Department of Defence said in a statement that there are robust policies, practices and procedures in place within the Defence Forces for addressing allegations of this nature, and their allegations relating to sexual offences are taken very seriously by Minister Simon Coveney.

The statement acknowledged that the Minister has been in receipt of correspondence outlining a number of allegations and is “currently examining the overall response to that correspondence with a view to conducting an independent assessment of actions taken to date, and whether any other actions should be adopted”.

Responding to a series of questions from RTÉ, the Defence Forces said: “It is inappropriate for Óglaigh na hÉireann to comment on individual cases or allegations of a criminal or disciplinary nature or any measures that would fall within the purview of the protected Disclosure Act 2014.”

Sinn Féin's defence spokesperson Sorca Clarke said today that the allegations made are "very serious and deeply disturbing".

"I support survivors' calls for an independent inquiry into these allegations. 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," she said.

Social Democrat defence spokesperson Gary Gannon said: "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.

"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."

Labour's Mark Wall said that the contents of the programme required "urgent attention from the minister" while Áontu's Peadar Tóibín said there must be an independent and external investigation into sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination within the Defence Forces.

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