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19/10/2021

President Higgins praises survivors and backs review into alleged army sex abuse

President Higgins praises survivors and backs review into alleged army sex abuse

President Michael D Higgins

President Michael D Higgins has thrown his support behind a review into the Irish Defence Forces (IDF) following multiple accusations of bullying and sexual abuse levelled against the organisation.

He used his speech at the Defence Forces’ Values Awards yesterday to highlight the issue.

He discussed his concern for the retired female members of the organisation who featured in the recent RTÉ documentary Women of Honour, which detailed allegations of sexual harassment, attempted sexual assault and bullying over at least thirty years within the IDF.

President Higgins said: "My concern is, I know, shared by those who have responsibility for the safety and welfare of our Defence Forces personnel."

"I welcome the fact that a review will now take place of the contents of the programme and of any issues surrounding bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination within the Defence Forces."

He added: "I hope the review is wide, thorough, independent and inclusive of all issues irrespective of gender."

Mr Higgins concluded by saying that it is important that the IDF provides an inclusive workplace, and "that false barriers are not erected on the basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation or ethnic background."

The President paid tribute to the seven recipients of this year’s values awards, where military members were recognised for risking their life to save another, donating an organ and/or offering support to colleagues undergoing a difficult time.

Last week, Former Army captain and whistleblower Tom Clonan claimed that more allegations would soon further shake the IDF, while another former IDF member named Anthony O'Brien reiterated his campaign calling for the organisation to be reformed.

Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has since said that he is "committed" to meeting those who detailed their alleged experiences in the Women of Honour programme, and similarly commended their bravery in going public with their stories. 

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call Samaritans Ireland at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie.

In addition, you can contact the Rape Crisis Centre by visiting drcc.ie or calling 1 800 77 8888.

Help is always at hand and there is always someone available to listen.

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