Mon, 07 Feb, 2022 – 22:12
Paul Hosford Political Correspondent
Defence Minister Simon Coveney has appointed a senior barrister to investigate an outdoor lunch which took place at a Defence Forces barracks in June 2020, after which it is alleged a female soldier was sexually assaulted.
It is claimed an officer got drunk, fell asleep on the base, and is then alleged to have tried to grope one of two female soldiers who tried to wake him up. That allegation is being investigated by military police and a court-martial is expected in the coming months.
It is understood around 40 members of the Defence Forces attended the event at a time when Covid rules would have limited outdoor gatherings to 15.
Reprimands were made at the time, but Mr Coveney only received a formal report from Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Seán Clancy at the end of January.
A statement from Mr Coveney said that given the time between the event and the conclusion of investigations, an external review was needed.
“There is a military judicial process underway on some matters and it would not be appropriate for the minister to comment until this concludes. Military Police investigations into other matters are now completed, the Minister sought updates on the progression of those investigations on a number of occasions. The Minister received a report from the Chief of Staff on Friday 28th January 2022. The Chief of Staff advised that the appropriate sanctions had been applied following the investigations.
“Given the length of time between the alleged incidents and the conclusion of the Military investigations, Minister Coveney and the Chief of Staff have agreed on an external review of the matter. Minister Coveney has appointed a Senior Counsel to undertake this review.”
Over the weekend, the Women of Honour group, which is made up of women whose careers in the Defence Forces have been blighted by abuse, said this case yet again underlines the importance of a statutory inquiry.
“The latest media reports about an alleged sexual assault by a male officer on a female colleague emphasises once again why a statutory inquiry into the handling of cases of abuse in the Defence Forces is necessary,” they said in a statement.
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