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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 4 Dec 2001

Vol. 545 No. 4

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Bullying Policy.

Liz McManus


70 Ms McManus asked the Minister for Defence the progress which has been made to date by a person (details supplied) in her examination of the nature and extent of sexual harassment and bullying in the Defence Forces; the progress of other measures to combat sexual harassment and bullying; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30651/01]

The Defence Forces have had formal policies and procedures on sexual harassment and bullying in place since February 1996 and these are outlined in an administrative instruction on interpersonal relationships. Lectures and briefings in this area have continued over the years as an integral element of the training syllabus on recruit, cadet and career courses, and in addition on those occasions when troops are undergoing training for duty overseas.

Early this year, the Defence Forces commenced a re-examination of procedures to bring them into line with the best state of the art practice in both the wider public service and in the private sector. In April, the section in the administrative instruction, which deals with the procedures concerning allegations of bullying, was revised to reflect this. The report of the Government Task Force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, published in March of this year, requires all public and private organisations to reassess their policies. The Defence Forces will actively participate in this review and re-assessment exercise.
All incidents of sexual harassment brought to the attention of the military authorities are thoroughly investigated. Additional procedures are also being put in place by the Chief of Staff. Each barracks will have a female liaison officer, known and available to all females in barracks. Each formation commander will arrange women's days on a periodic basis to cover issues such as interpersonal relationships and women's health issues.
An internal information campaign of posters, and a simplified "user friendly" booklet, will convey the essential message of the administrative instruction on interpersonal relationships. Briefings and open discussions with mixed gender attendance are to be conducted by formation commanders and will continue on a periodic basis. I am satisfied that the military authorities are quite properly emphasising again the serious nature of this subject for all personnel. The importance of establishing the proper environment cannot be over emphasised. The Chief of Staff has stated that commanders at all levels should bear in mind that it is a command responsibility to ensure that the military environment is free from any form of sexual harassment and bullying. He has further stated that any failure by a commander to ensure that such is the case, or to deal adequately with complaints of sexual harassment or bullying, would be considered a dereliction of duty.
The Chief of Staff has established a special military steering group to examine these issues. I invited Dr. Eileen Doyle, who chaired the Government's task force on the Prevention of Workplace Bullying, to join the group as an expert civilian chairperson. Her task is to determine the nature and extent of sexual harassment, harassment and bullying in the Defence Forces, to review existing policies and procedures, and to make recommendations on strategies and programmes relating to awareness and education in this whole area. She has been joined by two other civilian experts, who previously worked with her on the original Government task force, and by senior military personnel, including the Deputy Chief of Staff – support – and a senior female army officer. Dr. Doyle and the joint civilian-military group will now proceed to produce a report by March 2002.
In the interim Dr. Doyle and her team have had a number of meetings during which they have been briefed on Defence Forces organisation, structures and procedures with particular emphasis on personnel issues including interpersonal relations. Dr. Doyle and her committee have also met with representatives of both RACO and PDFORRA.
A social psychology researcher has prepared a questionnaire which will be distributed to approximately 10% of Defence Forces personnel. The questionnaire is intended to capture the actual nature and extent of any bullying, harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination within the Defence Forces.
The Defence Forces fully recognise that the singular nature of the military environment does not give anyone a general licence for bullying or harassment of any kind. Such behaviour will not be tolerated.
Question No. 71 answered with Question No. 65.