The Women of Honour group have expressed disappointment following a meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin where he confirmed a review into allegations of misconduct in the Defence Forces will go ahead rather than a statutory inquiry.
During the meeting, the group asked the Taoiseach to reconsider Government position regarding the approved review into the issues raised with regard to the Defence Forces.
Allegations of sexism, bullying, sexual assault and rape in the Defence Forces were uncovered in an RTÉ documentary last year.
According to the Women of Honour, the review into the allegations is "flawed and entirely unfit for purpose".
"We also asked that the appropriate public statutory investigation be put in place with responsibility for that investigation being removed from the Department of Defence," the group said in a statement.
"Unfortunately the Taoiseach has advised that the review will go ahead as is."
The group said Mr Martin did not rule out a statutory inquiry, however, it is unclear when a decision will be made and if it is dependent on the outcome of the review.
"It is our view that Minister Coveney is conflicted in this matter of investigating the Defence Forces and the Department of Defence," the group said.
"Mr Coveney has been Minister for Defence in six of the last nine years when many of the serious offences took place in the Forces.
"But he has never intervened until the RTÉ documentary. Also, his party Fine Gael has held the Defence post since 2011, and we believe it is time for fresh thinking."
Last week, the Women of Honour group walked out early from a meeting with Minister for Defence Simon Coveney, who they accused of whitewashing the issue.
— Women Of Honour (@WomenOfHonour_) January 25, 2022
"We also explained to the Taoiseach how disrespectfully we believe we have been treated by Minister Coveney in a number of instances including initially refusing to allow us to have legal representation present and most significantly for us not actually treating us as stakeholders," the group said.
"We believe only a statutory inquiry will get to the heart of the matters involved, and we explained to the Taoiseach that another review, however well-intentioned by Government, would not get to the heart of the toxic culture in the Defence Forces.
"If the issues that we have raised are not considered serious enough to merit a full statutory inquiry it is hard to understand what is.
"We feel this review is throwing more good money after bad as previous reviews have been ineffective.
"We strongly disagree with the position of government to act quickly in trying to address the issues raised without taking the time to truly understand the extent and depth of the problems.
"This will result in nothing more than a painting over the cracks as opposed to lasting and meaningful change."
A member of the Women of Honour group, who met with the Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Monday, expressed disappointment that the Government is going ahead with a review rather than a statutory inquiry.
Karina Molloy told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show that the group was “deflated” despite assurances from the Taoiseach that a statutory inquiry will go ahead if recommended by the review.
The Women of Honour group was concerned that the Department of Defence was writing the terms of the review, which meant they were essentially investigating themselves, she said.
A statutory inquiry was needed to root out the systemic problems within the force, added Ms Molloy.
When asked why the group had not walked out of the meeting with the Taoiseach as they had done during a meeting with Minister Simon Coveney last week, Ms Molloy explained that Mr Martin had not revealed that a statutory inquiry would not be going ahead until an hour and a half into the meeting.
“We had hoped to talk more and to persuade him.”
It was not good enough that a statutory inquiry was not going to take place unless recommended by the review, she said.
“This review is not fit for purpose, it will not get to the root of the problem.”
The review was not going to address what happens to members of the defence forces after they make a complaint, the isolation, the coercion, how they lose out on promotions, how they are frequently “left behind”, she said.
Those who make complaints are frequently accused of being troublemakers, Ms Molloy added.
The terms of reference of the review would only allow for recommendations to be made, she said. It would not have the statutory power to compel evidence or witnesses to explain what happens after reports were made.
“Yes, trust has been broken.”
How much more serious would an issue have to be to merit a statutory inquiry, she asked. The issues involved included sexual assault and rape.
“Is rape not high enough (an issue)?”
Ms Molloy said that the Women of Honour group hoped that the review would lead to a statutory inquiry.