I propose to answer Questions Nos. 81, 84, 90, 92, 98 and 107 together. Deputies will be aware that there have been three reports from the independent monitoring group, IMG, since the publication in 2002 of the report of the external advisory committee on the Defence Forces, The Challenge of the Workplace.
Following extensive discussions over several months between the Secretary General and the former Chief of Staff on next steps for the IMG process and what that would encompass, it was considered that a back-to-basics external review of policies, systems and procedures for dealing with matters relating to dignity, equality, discrimination, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment was required. On that basis the IMG process is to be set aside.
As the Deputies will also be aware, I met recently with participants from the Women of Honour group and with a number of serving female members of the Defence Forces where I had the opportunity to listen carefully to their experiences in what were very informative, frank and emotional meetings. In addition, there has been a number engagements between senior civil and military management and relevant stakeholders including with both the participants from the Women of Honour group and a group of serving female members of the Defence Forces.
On foot of those meetings, I have decided to proceed with an independent review without delay to examine the effectiveness of systems, policies and procedures to deal with workplace issues relating to bullying, discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the Defence Forces. The draft terms for this review have been shared with a range of stakeholders including the representative associations, serving members and the Women of Honour group. I look forward to receiving their observations which will inform the final terms of the review, which I intend to finalise in the coming weeks. I wish to underline that this review will be undertaken by external and entirely independent and unbiased experts in this field. In this regard, potential members are also under consideration.
Deputies will also be aware that I have recently announced interim measures for both former and serving members of the Defence Forces, both male and female, who have been affected by unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.
An agreement has been reached with Raiseaconcern, an organisation working with private sector and public bodies on issues relating to workplace wrongdoing, on the appointment of an external confidential contact person who will be available to assist both serving and former members of the Defence Forces who have been affected by these issues. This service provides a safe space to support the reporting of alleged wrongdoing.
In addition, I have announced that my Department and the Defence Forces are engaging with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre in terms of assistance for both serving and former personnel who have suffered sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape in the workplace.
Finally, I wish to reiterate my commitment and that of the Secretary General and Chief of Staff, to ensure that every member of the Defence Forces, male and female, can carry out their duties in a safe and respectful workplace based on dignity, equality and zero-tolerance for any kind of unacceptable behaviour.