Politics

Alleged sexual assault on military base investigated

The Defence Forces is carrying out an investigation into an alleged sexual assault on a military base over the weekend.

The alleged incident occurred in the sleeping quarters area of an Army installation on Saturday night. Soldiers had been drinking in the mess hall before some of them went back to the quarters to continue drinking.

At one stage, one soldier feel asleep. He later alleged he woke up to find another man, who holds a leadership position, had removed some of his clothes and was sexually assaulting him.

The complainant then allegedly punched this soldier in response, leaving him with injuries.

Both men were subsequently confined to quarters while military police assessed the situation. The Garda has not yet become involved.

An informed source said the investigation was at an early stage and that some of the facts regarding the sequence of events remained “murky”. No finding of guilt has been made against any party.

A Defence Forces spokesman said the matter “is the subject of an ongoing investigation. As such we are unable to comment.”

Anti-bullying week

News of the incident comes as the military launches “Defence Forces Anti-bullying and Harassment Week”. The initiative is part of the Defence Force’s response to allegations of sexual abuse, bullying, harassment and discrimination within the organisation, which were detailed in the RTÉ Women of Honour documentary in September.

In the aftermath of the documentary, which featured the stories of five retired female members of the Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, the new Chief of Staff Lieut Gen Seán Clancy said he was shocked and “hugely moved” by the women and promised reform.

He said issues of abuse and harassment in the Defence Forces were not just a historic problem, they were a current problem. On taking up his position as Chief of Staff he wrote to all personnel stating such behaviour would not be tolerated.

The women were also praised by President Michael D Higgins, who described the treatment of some members as shameful.

Military and civil leadership have since established a “confidential contact person” to assist victims in coming forward. A review of how such complaints are handled internally has also been established.

Lieut Gen Clancy has also directed a series of “immediate action” responses, including the deployment of a “response team” within the Defence Forces which has been touring bases and giving lectures on the organisation’s policies on harassment and abuse.

Research has shown both male and female of the Defence Forces are often reluctant to use the internal complaints system for fear of damaging their careers.

It is understood bullying and workplace culture will also be a significant focus of the Commission on the Future of Defence when it submits its report to Government next month.

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