The Defence Forces Abuse Inquiry Has Fatal Deficiencies. – Tóibín
I want to first of all pay tribute to the Women of Honour who courageously brought to light the shockingly litany of abuse and bullying that has been experienced by men and women in the Defence Forces over decades. It took enormous bravery for these women to tell their own stories in such a public manner. They should not have had to do this but given the resistance within government and within the Defence Forces they were left with no choice.
Aontú was the first party to raise their campaign in the Dáil and we stated from the start that for justice to be achieved, the terms of reference must be drafted in consultation and with the agreement with the Women of Honour. This has not happened. Indeed the Women of Honour have been frustrated in this process from the start. The time honour process of the state resisting the truth is yet again evident here.
This inquiry has fatal deficiencies. It will not, as its currently constituted get to the truth. It will not achieve justice for all those who have been wronged and it will not provide the accountability necessary to drive real reform of the Defences Forces.
Incredibly the Tribunal will not investigate the nature of the abuse and bullying that has occurred within the Defence Forces. It studiously avoids the damage that has been done to so many men and women who have suffered for so long. This is startling. The damage that was done to the men and women of the defence forces should have been the primary objective of this Tribunal.
Instead the Tribunal only seeks to investigates the complaints process. It has been as clear as day that the complaints process has been broken and not working for decades now. The 1990 Report on the Commission of Renumeration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces stated that the Complaints procedure “is now held to be a meaningless ritual with little or no hope of redress. There is also a perception that if a person applies to for redress that they will get special treatment. The procedure has lost all credibility.
The Workplace Climate in Defence Forces Report from 2016 also discusses the complaints procedure. It reports statements from members of the Defence Forces about the complaints procedure and I quote “you will suffer afterwards. You may win the battle but you will lose the war. Another quote is “I would not be comfortable using it as it will come against you”. Another stated ‘I would be careful using redress of wrongs, would not want to bring the heat on me’. Another said ‘I would be wary of using it in cases it comes back. You hear stories. All of a sudden you couldn’t get opportunities’. The Independent Review Group report that your government commissioned has already recommended immediate reform of the complaint’s procedure.
But here you are setting up a Tribunal to simply add another report with exactly the same recommendations.
Another major weakness of this Tribunal is that by investigating that Complaints Procedure, you will be ignoring so many staff that avoided the Complaints Procedure because it was so rotten and corrupt in the first place. I spoke to a woman who has sexually assaulted by a man within the army, was bullied out of the army and saw the perpetrator just asked to retire on a full pension. She said to me I would like to ask the Tánaiste does he really, truly and sincerely believe that the senior army officers who covered up for my assailant, protected him and bullied, harassed and harangued and gas lighted me into a state of abject despair, would really follow up with me to ask me if I had filled out a particular ‘complaints form’.
‘The Senior Officer who sexually assaulted me had assaulted another woman before me (which was covered up) and went on to sexually assault two women after me, for the latter he was eventually tried by Court Marshall and found guilty and charged with ‘Conduct unbecoming of an officer’ and fined € 400 and then was allowed to voluntarily resign graciously from the Defence Forces so as to protect his big pension….(if he was dishonourably discharged, he would have lost his pension!)’.
The terms of reference do not explicitly allow for women such as this to participate in the tribunal. Why is this case. I would ask the Tánaiste to explicitly state that any member of the defence forces who suffered from abuse can have their case examined by the Tribunal.
Another significant concern that I have is terms of reference K. Potentially reducing the Tribunal to a sample size of the women who have suffered. This too would lock victims and survivors out of the tribunal. I understand the need for swift justice but limiting the Tribunal to a sample would exclude justice for many. The government have also excluded an investigation of Air Accidents investigations left out. People have died in the service of this state, and we need a full investigation of what happened. Why is this Tánaiste?