Written answers

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Department of Defence

Defence Forces Investigations

Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
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197. To ask the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence if he will establish a commission of enquiry into allegations of systemic sexual abuse in the Defence Forces given the number of persons who have come forward over the past few weeks to support these allegations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17747/21]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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All members of the Defence Forces, Permanent and Reserve, have a right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of sexual harassment, harassment or bullying. These unacceptable forms of behaviour are not tolerated in the Defence Forces.

I urge anyone who has any complaint which they think constitutes a criminal offence to report their concerns to an Garda Síochána. A serving member of the Defence Forces could report such matters via the chain of command or the military police.

In the intervening years, there have been positive and welcome developments within the Permanent Defence Force to address inappropriate behaviour. There is now a robust system in place including a regulatory framework for dealing with such matters for serving members of the Defence Forces in both a formal and informal way. Administrative Instruction A7, Chapter 1 sets out the Defence Forces policy and procedures regarding interpersonal relationships in the Defence Forces including sexual harassment, harassment and bullying.

From time to time matters pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse are brought to my attention and I treat these with the utmost importance from the point of view of both the complainant and of those accused of wrongdoing who must have their right to fair procedures protected. The Gardaí have the power, expertise and skills to treat all of those in this process with dignity and respect and especially those who come forward with traumatic detail.

I have asked the Chief of Staff to provide a report to help inform me regarding matters raised recently in the print and broadcast media.

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