Sinn Féin spokesperson on Defence, Sorca Clarke TD, has backed calls by the Women Of Honour group for a full commission of inquiry into allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the Defence Forces.
The group has expressed their profound disappointment at the Defence Minister and his Department’s insistence on committing solely to an internal review of their allegations, which will not have the power to compel witnesses or apportion blame.
Speaking today, Teachta Clarke said:
“I want to again commend the Women of Honour for their bravery in coming forward with these disturbing allegations of how they were treated in the Defence Forces. We have a duty to listen to survivors and to act.
“Sexual harassment and violence of any kind is totally unacceptable and can never be condoned or minimised.
“I share the Women Of Honour’s concerns about the government’s proposed mechanism of addressing these allegations. It is clearly inadequate for an internal review to be held, with no power to compel witnesses or apportion blame.
“I support the survivors’ calls for a full commission of inquiry. I support their demands that this must include not only the specific allegations of initial wrongdoing but also the wider mishandling of the women’s complaints including the bullying, coercion and collusion they say they were subjected to.
“The survivors are clear that a mere review does not go far enough. If these serious allegations are to be addressed and learned from, they want to see a robust, independent investigation which can identify the issues and put in place mechanisms to ensure no other women are treated in the same way again.
“They have been clear in setting out how there must be a complaints system outside of the Defence Forces structure, to ensure it is independent and impartial. This is vital to ensure survivors can have confidence in the handling of any future complaints.
“I am deeply disappointed at how these survivors have been treated by the government. The Women Of Honour have engaged with the government in good faith and the very least they deserve is to be listened to and for their concerns to be taken seriously.
“I am urging the Defence Minister to listen to these concerns now and act urgently to take them on board. The Department must accept that they have undermined the Women Of Hour group’s trust and work to repair this. There can be no delays or attempts to sweep this under the carpet.”