"Government Attitude to Women of Honour A Mirror Image of Cervical Check Scandal" - Tóibín
The Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has likened the government's attitudes to the Women of Honour group to their treatment of the victims of the Cervical Check scandal. Deputy Tóibín was speaking in the Dáíl today after Aontú's letter calling for a full scale investigation into the matter, was signed by members of nearly all opposition parties and groupings in the Oireachtas.
Deputy Tóibín said:
"I am disappointed by the absence of the Minister for Defence here today. The Women of Honour were women who were seeking to work in the service of the state. These women in their work put their lives on the line for us. Shockingly their service was met by assault, rape, abuse, bullying and discrimination.
When they went to seek justice, justice was blocked and prevented. Instead of the perpetrators of this abuse being punished it appears that the victims of this abuse were punished. It appears that there is a culture within the defence forces to protect the organisation against the attack. We have seen this culture in practically every walk of life in society.
These women were forced to break their anonymity and tell their harrowing stories. The trauma of their experience is evident in their testimony. We owe a debt of gratitude to these women for their campaign and work that they have undertaken. They have undertaken a job of work that is equivalent to a full-time job, without pay to reform the Defence Forces. They were forced to undertake this job because the government simply wouldn’t do their job.
It's important to note that their case has reached this stage in large part because of the work of the Katie Hannon Documentary which finally gave these women a voice on the national airwaves. They met with the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney who promised to finally listen to them. The Minister also committed to giving them a role in the path to justice. He stated that he would facilitate their shaping of the terms of reference. I worked closely with the Women of Honour during this period, and I remember being surprised by the Minister’s commitment, thinking this is not how governments usually work. For decades successive governments protected organisations against those who sought to reformed them.
My distrust of the government was proved correct. In a mirror image of the Cervical Check scandal, Ministers spoke in measured tones in shock of the wrongs that happened and about the need to get to the truth and for change. But similarly to the more than 300 women caught up in the Cervical check scandal having to go to the high court to get justice, the words of the government have proven meaningless in this case also.
The Minister’s credibility stands in stark contrast with the actions of the women of honour. The Minister’s credibility has been hammered. He reneged on his promise for a fully independent and external Commission of Investigation into Bullying, Discrimination and Sexual Violence in the Defence Forces.
He has reneged on his promise to tackle the systemic resistance within the Defence Forces which prevents victims and survivors achieving justice. The credibility of the Taoiseach is also on the line here. The Taoiseach met with the Women of Honour in Government Buildings last Monday. The Taoiseach has a responsibility to these women. We are in the context of the extremely important national discussion on the subject of violence against women it is critical that women who were and are employees of the state are not ignored".