The examination of allegations of intimidation and sexual assault in the Defense Forces should be thorough, independent and broad, said President Michael D Higgins.
The president used his Defense Forces’ Value Awards speech on Tuesday to express concern for the retired women members of the organization who were featured in RTÉ’s recent documentary Women of Honor, which detailed three decades of alleged sexual harassment, attempted sexual assault and intimidation within the Defense Forces.
Defense Minister Simon Coveney has since offered to meet with the women and announced a revised terms for an independent review on how these allegations are being handled.
Mr. Higgins of expressed concern “for the well-being of the women who have so generously and courageously recounted their experiences of the recent and very distressing Women of Honor program”.
“My concern is, I know, shared by those who have responsibility for the safety and well-being of our Defense Force personnel. I welcome the fact that a review will now take place on the content of the program and on any issue relating to bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination within the Defense Forces.
“I hope the review will be broad, in-depth, independent and inclusive of all issues regardless of gender.”
Mr Higgins said it was vital that the Defense Forces be an inclusive workplace “and that false barriers are not erected on the basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation or Ethnicity “.
The President paid tribute to the seven recipients of this year’s Securities Awards. Members of the military have been known to risk their lives to save another, donating an organ and offering support to colleagues going through difficult times.
“Everyone who receives awards today has shown that instinct for original thought, moral courage and human solidarity, and an impressive refusal to shy away from the challenges that characterize the exceptional human being. “
Mr Higgins also thanked Chief of Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Mellett, who is retiring this month, for his decades of service. “He has been a loyal and generous role model to so many people at Óglaigh na hÉireann, and I know that everyone who has had the privilege of working with him will be sadly missed.”