Documentary Highlights Abuse Allegations in Irish Defence Forces

On 11 September 2021, RTE Radio One – Ireland’s national broadcaster – released a documentary entitled ‘Women of Honour.’ The documentary, from journalist Katie Hannon, outlined allegations of decades long sexual abuse and harrassment against current and ex serving female members of the Irish Defence Forces. The women speaking on the documentary alleged both systematic and individual incidences of abuse, including incidences of being excluded from promotion opportunities, sexual assault and harrassment, and living and working within a misogynistic environment.

On its release, the allegations made by the women in the documentary prompted concern amongst the general public as well as representative associations for military personnel.

EUROMIL’s Irish member association, RACO, released a statement condemning the behaviour and announced its support for a proper independent review into the allegations.

In communication with its members, RACO stated the following:

“Many members will have listened to the documentary entitled ‘Women of Honour’ on RTE Radio One on Saturday 11 September, and may have been deeply affected by the content of the programme, the allegations contained within the programme, and the heartfelt and shocking accounts of the women who featured, which described horrific incidents of bullying, discrimination, sexual harassment and assault.

RACO’s mission is to champion the wellbeing of our members, and by extension, the DF family. The association does not tolerate any bullying or harassment, either physical, emotional or sexual, and would encourage any members of the association or wider DF to report any such behaviour through the appropriate channels provided for, which include DCP, PSS, Military Chain of Command / A7, the Military Police or An Garda Síochána. There is no place in our Defence Forces for the type of behaviour described in the programme, it is entirely unacceptable.

RACO has written to the Department of Defence and DF management referring to the DOD press release and DF statement (below) which describe TORs of an independent review which are to be reportedly finalised this week.

RACO has not received any draft TORs for any such review and has reminded the official side that the representative associations are key stakeholders and equal partners in the Independent Monitoring Group (IMG) process. The latest iteration of the IMG is overdue at this point.

We have previously raised the requirement to reinvigorate the IMG directly with the COS and Sec Gen, and also at Forum and Council, and the official side has again been reminded of RACO’s long held and repeatedly communicated concerns about the lack of mentoring and supervision at unit level which impacts on governance and increases risk, a subject that the IMG would almost certainly be examining. The behaviour described within the documentary Women of Honour are also issues that could be appropriate for the IMG to investigate and review.
 
RACO has asked to be advised as to the intent of the official side to consult with the representative associations in this regard.

PDFORRA has also written a similar communication to the official side, requested an immediate update as to the current status of the implementation of any review and its Terms of Reference, and suggested that the appointment of any person to a review body must be agreed between the parties so as to ensure the credibility of any subsequent report that is published.

Following the documentary, RACO was asked to appear on RTE’s Morning Ireland on Monday morning 13 Sep 2021 to discuss the content. You can listen to the interview at the following link: https://www.rte.ie/radio/radio1/clips/22004170/.”

EUROMIL joins its Irish member associations in condemning the horrific and unacceptable allegations of mistreatment and abuse against women in in the Irish Defence Forces. Unfortunately, although the accounts are shocking to listen to, EUROMIL is aware that the behaviour alleged is nonetheless experienced across the armed forces generally and is not just isolated to these Irish accounts. As the European umbrella organisation for military trade unions and associations, we will continue to closely monitor issues of gender-based violence and harrassment in the armed forces in support of our members. EUROMIL also wishes to take the opportunity to reiterate its call for better rights and representation for personnel serving in the military, without which, bad behvaiour and problematic systemic structures will continue to exist.

For more information on the above please contact RACO.

The programme is available to listen here.

Defence Forces Statement on an independent review into harassment, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.

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