Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, TD, has today announced interim support measures for current and former members of the Defence Forces who have been affected by unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.
The initiative follows recent meetings the Minister has had with women, both serving and former members of the Defence Forces.
Speaking today, the Minister said, ‘the issues the women have raised are extremely serious for both women and men and need to be addressed in the most comprehensive way possible. Each and every single member of the Defence Forces, both male and female, has the right to carry out their duties in a safe workplace, underpinned by a culture of zero-tolerance for any kind of bullying, discrimination, or harassment. This is an absolute priority for myself, the Chief of Staff and the Secretary General.’
The Minister continued, ‘I have given a commitment that an unbiased Independent Review is being established to examine the effectiveness of policies and procedures in the Defence Forces workplace. My officials will be engaging with the women I met recently, both serving and former members of the Defence Forces, as well as the Representative Associations and other key stakeholders, on the finalisation of the Terms of Reference.
On foot of the strong views expressed at the recent meetings, I also decided to introduce, without delay, interim support measures for members of the Defence Forces, past or present, who have been affected by these issues.
Following ongoing work carried out by my Department and the Defence Forces, I am pleased to announce that an agreement has been reached with Raiseaconcern, an organisation working with private sector and public bodies on issues relating to workplace wrongdoing, on the appointment of a Confidential Contact Person (CCP) who will be available to assist members of the Defence Forces who may find themselves the victim of bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or gender discrimination in the workplace. This will provide a safe place to support the reporting of alleged wrongdoing’.
The Minister confirmed that the external Confidential Contact Person (CCP) will be available to serving and former members of the Defence Forces, both female and male, on a confidential basis, to listen to and assist them in documenting their allegations and to provide guidance on follow-on options open to them. These options will differ depending on whether the individual involved is a serving or former member of the Defence Forces and on the nature of the allegations. This will allow each individual to make an informed decision in relation to next steps regarding their allegations. The CCP is entirely independent and outside of the Defence Forces Chain of Command.
Raiseaconcern will provide the Minister with periodic updates on the number and types of cases and issues they are seeing, but strictly on an anonymised basis. This information will also inform the Independent Review process.
The Minister additionally announced that his Department and the Defence Forces are engaging with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in terms of assistance for both serving and former personnel who have suffered sexual harassment, sexual assault, or rape, in the workplace.
‘I have consistently said that such serious allegations should be reported to the Gardai without delay, as they are the competent authority to investigate such actions. However, I am fully cognizant of the trauma suffered by the victims and I am pleased and grateful that the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, who are professionally trained in this area, have offered their services, in cooperation with my Department and the Defence Forces, to both serving and former members of the Defence Forces.’
Minister Coveney continued, ‘This is just the first of a series of steps in restoring the confidence and trust of each and every member of the Defence Forces.’
Chief of Staff, Lt. General Sean Clancy, added ‘The interim support measures announced by the Minister are a first step in addressing the issues raised, and I am fully committed to ensuring that the work environment of Óglaigh na hÉireann is a safe, enriching and rewarding one for all who serve.
There is no place for inappropriate or toxic behaviour within the Defence Forces. It will neither be tolerated nor accepted; I will not accept it, neither should any member of the organisation. Leaders at all levels have a responsibility to manage the authority associated with rank and ensure those who are vulnerable are protected. We must never walk past inappropriate standards of behaviour. The standards you walk past are the standards you accept.’
The Minister also confirmed that the upcoming Independent Review will facilitate both serving and former members with an opportunity to express and share their experiences of unacceptable behaviour in the workplace, if they wish to do so.
Note for Editor
Raiseaconcern works with private sector employers and public bodies in the prevention, detection, investigation and remediation of workplace wrongdoing. www.raiseaconcern.com
As part of a public procured framework operated by the Office of Government Procurement, Raiseaconcern is the only approved third party service provider for the role of ‘Confidential Recipient’ and for the evaluation of disclosures by employees of Government and public bodies that may qualify as protected disclosures.
Raiseaconcern is also the cascade leader in a public procured framework for the conduct of investigations of workplace wrongdoing, particularly in the area of dignity at work (bullying, harassment & sexual harassment) in the Irish public service.
Set up in 2013, Raiseaconcern is Irish owned and operated and is located in Sallins, Co Kildare.
Contact details for serving or former members of the Defence Forces:
Landline: 01 6107929
Mobile: 086 0299929
Contact Details for Dublin Rape Crisis Centre:
DRCC operates the National 24-hour Helpline 1800 778888 for those who need support in any part of the country www.drcc.ie
Other supports currently available to serving personnel of the Defence Forces
INSPIRE helpline provides a confidential counselling, referral and support service on a wide range of personal and work-related issues for all members of the Defence Forces (Permanent and Reserve), as well as Civilian Employees and Civil Defence volunteers. This service was extended to the families of serving personnel under the above categories in June 2020, as a result of Covid, for an initial period of six months and has since been extended. A Freephone confidential helpline is available on a 24/7 basis 365 days a year and is staffed by fully-trained and experienced counsellors.
The Defence Forces Personnel Support Services (PSS) provide a welfare, information, psycho-social support and referral service, that is professional, responsive and confidential, to serving members of the Defence Forces and their families to sustain and enhance the individual wellbeing of personnel, and to promote a safe and positive work culture in order to support the effectiveness of the Defence Forces.
The Chaplaincy Service also provides confidential, comprehensive pastoral support and spiritual care to personnel at home and overseas.