- 05 Apr 23
Gardaí have found 26 cases in their records arising out of complaints of sexual abuse in the Irish Defence Forces.
The decision by the Gardaí's to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct within the Irish army and other elements of the defence forces workforce has been called into question by Women of Honour, a group of women who served in the Defence Forces.
Despite having spoken about their experiences of sexual misconduct and harassment while serving, the Women of Honour group did not hear about the An Garda Siochána's initiative to investigate these cases of sexual misconduct in the workplace until it was announced to the public.
Women of Honour are also seeking a meeting with an Tánaiste Micheál Martin, over the appointment of the Secretary General at the Department of Defence to an external oversight body.
In the coming days and weeks, I would ask that there be no more ‘Reprisal’ ‘Cancellation’ or Trolling of those of us who have campaigned for decades against Sexual Violence in Defence Forces. Now is time for Unambiguous Leadership from @defenceforces - @DF_COS needs our support https://t.co/IffJouQDun
— Dr Tom Clonan (@TomClonan) March 29, 2023
Drew Harris, Garda Commissioner, stated that the Gardaí are open to any and all victims coming forward to share their experiences. This is part of their process of investigating “predators” within the defence forces, with 26 allegations currently being examined. The investigation, according to an RTÉ report by Paul Reynolds, will be led by what is called the National Protective Services Bureau.
“We have to take into account that victims may have been victimised, attacked on a number of occasions,” stated Drew Harris.
While it is accepted that there are good intentions behind the change in approach by the Gardaí, the lack of communication has undermined people's belief in how helpful it will be.
Retired army captain Diane Byrne, a member of Women of Honour, noted that no notice had been given to the group before the announcement of the new plan.
“None of this is new," she said on RTÉ radio. "You know, we've been saying it for a long time. Lots of people have. Why? Why now? What's different now?”
The investigation is taking place after the publication of a report from an independent review group (IRG) into the Defence Forces and the amount of sexual misconduct, harassment and discrimination within the workforce.
The report confirmed that there is a significant amount of misconduct within the Defence Forces, with 88% of women in the army reporting at least one form of sexual abuse while serving. However, at 17%, a far smaller proportion of men faced sexual harassment.
The Women of Honour would like to commend this brave victim and those involved in the external investigation. This should never have happened, and we feel victims are continuously let down by the DOD. How many more victims before they give us a statutory inquiry?
— Women Of Honour (@WomenOfHonour_) February 28, 2023
The Gardaí and military had apparently been in contact with each other before the IRG report was released, but military police are not involved with the current investigation.
The decision by the Gardaí to investigate what the Garda Commissioner Drew Harris referred to as “predators” will need to be followed through with both sensitivity and determination in order to allow the victims to have the space and the vindication necessary to heal and to move forward.
“It's very, very hard to have trust in this," Diane Byrne of Women of Honour said. "There's one chance to fix this issue going forward. And what we need is something very different to what's ever been done before to get some sort of real restorative change in this country.”
“But we also," Drew Harris said, "have to take into account that there may be predators out there – and we want to make sure that if individuals are accused of multiple offences that we gather all the evidence and report that to the DPP.”
This one may run and run.
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