State Must Take Action to Ensure Human Rights of Defence Force Personnel are Upheld

The Human Rights and Equality Commission has today stated that the failure to investigate reported abuses in the Defence Forces over many years, as detailed in the findings of the Independent Review Group, is a clear dereliction of duty of care by the State to ensure equality of treatment and uphold the human rights of those serving their country.

The Commission is concerned at what the Independent Review Group has reported regarding a decades-long culture of discrimination and “unacceptable behaviour” in our Defence Forces. It is particularly disturbing that this report documents that fact that many of “these behaviours persist to the present day”.

We welcome the establishment of a Statutory Inquiry to investigate serious systemic failures in dealing with individual complaints. However, we ask that the Government expedite the preparation of legislation regarding the establishment of an independent complaints mechanism; an external oversight body on a statutory basis; an amendment of the 1954 Defence Act; and to oversee a significant programme of reform and culture change within the Defence Forces.

The State is responsible for upholding a workplace culture that is fully aligned with the human rights principles of dignity, equality, mutual respect and the duty of care to its employees.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“It is disturbing to read and hear the words of those who suffered hugely in recent decades while serving their country in the Defence Forces. We commend the women who have come forward to share their difficult personal stories.

“No organisation is exempt from applying basic rules of justice.

“Ultimately the State is responsible for ensuring that appropriate legislation is introduced to ensure that past and present victims of this damaging culture receive the justice they deserve.”


For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.