Saturday 18 November 2017

Defence Forces investigate 10 cases of bullying and sexual harassment within last two years - but it 'may be just tip of iceberg'

Between 2014 and September of this year, seven complaints of bullying were made by staff while three sexual harassment complaints were recorded by the military police. Stock Image
Between 2014 and September of this year, seven complaints of bullying were made by staff while three sexual harassment complaints were recorded by the military police. Stock Image

Robin Schiller

The Defence Forces have investigated 10 cases of bullying and sexual harassment of its members within the last two years.

Between 2014 and September of this year, seven complaints of bullying were made by staff while three sexual harassment complaints were recorded by the military police.

Gerry Rooney, general secretary of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra). Photo: P.J.Browne
Gerry Rooney, general secretary of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra). Photo: P.J.Browne

However, a union official which represents members of the Defence Forces has warned that the actual number of incidents could be a lot higher.

Gerry Rooney, general secretary of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra), also said that the complaints process could take almost two years until a conclusion was reached.

A Defence Force spokesman said that the range of sanctions could vary from administrative to disciplinary.

Records show that in 2014, five complaints of bullying were made by army personnel while a further two incidents of sexual harassment were reported.

The following year two complaints of bullying were made, while up until September 2016, one instance of sexual harassment was reported to the Defence Forces.

However, details including the ranks of the complainant and the alleged perpetrator were not released.

Mr Rooney said that a better procedure needed to be implemented for the complaints process.

"We've found that there would actually be more incidents that just aren't being reported by Defence Force personal, particularly with regards to bullying.

"Complainants can feel suppressed and don't believe that their case will be looked at and investigated sufficiently.

"Better protocols and procedures need to be put in place.

"A complaint can take up to a year to be finalised and dealt with, which is far too long," Mr Rooney told the Irish Independent.

Former defence minister Willie O'Dea described the possibility of complaints not being reported as "very sinister".

"These men and women go to far parts of the world and put their lives on the line to assist the poorest people and prevent violence, so it would be horrendous to think that they themselves could be victims," Mr O'Dea said.

A spokesman for the Department insisted all complaints would be investigated.

"All personnel of the Defence Forces are expected to respect the right of each individual to dignity in their work environment and in all activities of their service," the spokesman said.

"All complaints of bullying or harassment are investigated by the Defence Forces.

"There are a broad range of possible sanctions, from administrative to disciplinary, depending on the nature and severity of the complaint," he added.

Irish Independent

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