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Taoiseach told judge-led review will not get to the ‘heart of toxic culture’

Members of the Women of Honour group allege bullying, misogyny and violence within the Irish armed forces.

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Yvonne O’Rourke from the Women of Honour group outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following her meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Yvonne O’Rourke from the Women of Honour group outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following her meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Yvonne O’Rourke from the Women of Honour group outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following her meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

A group of women alleging bullying, misogyny and violence within the Irish armed forces has warned the Taoiseach that a judge-led review will not get to the “heart of the toxic culture” in the army.

Members of the Women of Honour group made the comments following a meeting with Micheal Martin on Monday at Government Buildings.

The Government said it will establish a judge-led independent review to look at issues related to sexual misconduct, bullying, harassment and discrimination in the Defence Forces.

Allegations of sexism, bullying, sexual assault and rape in the Defence Forces were uncovered in an RTE documentary last year.

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Karina Molloy from the Women of Honour group talks to her solicitor outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following her meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Karina Molloy from the Women of Honour group talks to her solicitor outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following her meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

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Karina Molloy from the Women of Honour group talks to her solicitor outside the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin following her meeting with Defence Minister Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

The group of women has long opposed a judge-led review, and has called for a public statutory investigation to be carried out.

The group said that Mr Martin listened to their concerns and “treated us courteously” throughout the hour-and-a-half-long meeting.

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“We asked the Taoiseach to reconsider Government position regarding the approved but flawed and entirely unfit for purpose review into the issues raised with regard to the Defence Forces,” the group said in a statement.

“We also asked that the appropriate public statutory investigation be put in place with responsibility for that investigation being removed from the Department of Defence.

“Unfortunately the Taoiseach has advised that the review will go ahead as is.

We explained to the Taoiseach that another review, however well-intentioned by Government, would not get to the heart of the toxic culture in the Defence Forces.Women of Honour

“Whilst he is not ruling out a statutory inquiry it is unclear if or when any decision will be made on this and whether it is dependent on the outcome of the review.”

The group has consistently called for a statutory inquiry which they say will “get to the heart” of matters.

“We explained to the Taoiseach that another review, however well intentioned by Government, would not get to the heart of the toxic culture in the Defence Forces,” they said.

“If the issues that we have raised are not considered serious enough to merit a full statutory inquiry it is hard to understand what is.

“We feel this review is throwing more good money after bad as previous reviews have been ineffective.

“We strongly disagree with the position of government to act quickly in trying to address the issues raised without taking the time to truly understand the extent and depth of the problems.

“This will result in nothing more than a painting over the cracks as opposed to lasting and meaningful change.”

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Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (PA)

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (PA)

PA

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney (PA)

The group said they also raised concerns to Mr Martin about how they have been treated by Minister for Defence Simon Coveney.

The group claims they have been “disrespectfully” treated by Mr Coveney in a number of instances.

It comes after retired captain Diane Byrne and retired captain Yvonne O’Rourke said they felt “deeply disillusioned” following a meeting with Mr Coveney last week.

According to the Department, the review will advise whether current legislation, policies and procedures are effective at preventing “incidents of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace”.

It will include a review of the culture within the Defence Forces, before providing recommendations to the minister.

The department said an interim report will be submitted to Mr Coveney within six months, with a final report expected within nine months.

Retired judge Bronagh O’Hanlon will chair the review group.

The Department of Taoiseach has been asked for comment.


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