Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said that the long overdue tribunal of inquiry into Defence Forces abuse cannot exclude or re-traumatise survivors.
Speaking as Sinn Féin moved to strengthen the inquiry’s terms of reference this evening, she said that the Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Micheál Martin, must heed the calls of the Women of Honour, and ensure that the voices of all survivors are heard.
Teachta McDonald said:
“That a tribunal of Inquiry is to be established into incidents of abuse in the Defence Forces is welcome but long overdue.
“For over two years since the deeply concerning and serious allegations of sexual violence and harassment within the Defence Forces came to public attention in RTÉ’s investigative radio documentary in 2021, survivors have been calling for a statutory inquiry into the allegations.
“It is therefore incredibly frustrating that the terms of reference brought before the Dáil today are seen by survivors as insufficient and exclusionary.
“Poor communication from the Tánaiste, and what appears an unwillingness to deliver what survivors have sought, has led to deep frustration and distrust, in particular by bringing terms of reference to cabinet while the women themselves believed negotiations were still ongoing.
“Without the work of survivor groups such as the Women of Honour, Canary Movement and others, these allegations may never have been brought to light, so is inconceivable that the Tánaiste would bring forward terms of reference that lack their endorsement, and that today’s motion failed to even acknowledge the role survivors played in getting us this far.
“The Tánaiste caused great hurt by previous comments in relation to ‘trips, slips and falls’ and survivors have been understandably vocal in articulating their demand to see that no one, within or beyond their group, be excluded from this tribunal.
“This can either be the beginning of the end or simply the beginning of a series of inquiries that will see survivors re-traumatised time-and-time again.
“I am calling for the process of sampling to be excluded from the terms of reference – no survivor can be excluded on the basis of their abuse being considered ‘similar’ to that to another.
“Each individual who wishes to present to this tribunal has their own experience, and their own story to tell. Neither government nor tribunal has a right to deny them their right to give evidence.
“While Tánaiste did engage extensively with survivors, it seems clear from the text presented today that he was not listening. This must be corrected.
“Sinn Féin’s amendment to what is being proposed reflects the concerns of the people whose efforts brought the government to this point.
“I am calling on the government to support our amendment, which would ensure the full confidence of survivors and the public in this tribunal.”