Ireland’s armed forces “barely tolerates women”, a report into bullying and sexual harassment has found. The report by the Independent Review Group found a “discernible pattern of rape and sexual assault”.
Tánaiste (Irish Deputy Prime Minister) Micheál Martin described the report as stark and harrowing. The review group was launched in 2022 after a 2021 RTÉ investigation into Defence Forces abuse.
It has made a series of recommendations including the establishment of a full statutory inquiry into the controversy. The report is highly critical of the complaints system in the Defence Forces and has said members should be offered access to an external complaints system.
It found that incidents of bullying and rape were covered up and that no sexual harassment cases were officially recorded through the formal complaints process between 2019 to 2021.
It also recommended that the Defence Forces develop new policies on gender, inclusion and diversity and ensure that adequate maternity clothing is provided to female members. It added that a study should be carried out into the recent deaths by suicide of Defence Forces members.
‘Drink spiking and grooming’
In the review, 88% of female respondents surveyed said they had experienced one or more forms of sexual harassment. Interviewees reported sexual assaults taking place in barracks, naval boats, shower facilities and while abroad on tours.
They also reported regular drink spiking, grooming of younger recruits, and intimate images of female members being taken by surreptitious means.
Respondents described experiences of bullying including “tubbing”, which is when an individual is put in a barrel which may contain items such as chemicals, oil, fuel or animal carcasses as a form of punishment.
Forms of punishment were outlined including “beasting” and “mobbing” where an individual is harassed and isolated to ultimately “make life so difficult that they resign their post”.
In a paragraph in the report in relation to the subject of misogny it said: “Different sources available to the IRG-DF conclude that, at best, the Defence Forces barely tolerates women and, at its worst, verbally, physically, sexually and psychologically abuses women in its ranks
Additionally, the report found that some members of Defence Forces’ management “abuse their positions of power and command” in their treatment of subordinates.
This includes threatening behaviour and the suggestion the individual is under total control of the superior. Mr Martin said the inquiry into the report’s findings should be established before the end of the year.