Dr. Eileen Doyle and the external advisory committee group presented their completed report to me in March 2002. I accepted the report and recommendations in full. Action to implement the recommendations of the report has been a priority since that time. The follow-up action has been driven by an independent monitoring group, chaired by Dr. Doyle. This group meets regularly to oversee the implementation of the report's recommendations. This group has overseen the following important developments in relation to this issue: the establishment of an equality steering group; the launch of an independent confidential help line and counselling service for members of the Permanent Defence Force; the launch of a revised administrative instruction on interpersonal relationships in the Defence Forces; the sourcing of training on a pilot basis for commanders and senior NCOs focusing on the area of prevention and resolution of interpersonal conflict, which the monitoring group identified as important to organisational development and change; the appointment of an independent body to design, administer and analyse an exit interview questionnaire for personnel leaving the Defence Forces; the identification and training of personnel with appropriate skills to act as contact persons to assist in allowing personnel to deal with bullying issues by an informal approach, where appropriate; and the use of focus groups to identify appropriate ways of enriching training at all levels.
The equality steering group has engaged in an equality audit of various Defence Forces regulations and instructions. It has examined a range of matters including the legislation, regulations and administrative instructions, practices and procedures under which the Defence Forces operate. This examination is taking account of the current legislative requirements, best practice in employment in Ireland, the particular requirements of the military environment and the Challenge of the Workplace report. The equality steering group will ensure that progress is made both in relation to legislative requirements and best working practice.
The independent confidential help line and counselling service provides a 24 hour, 365 days a year, freefone care line to all serving members of the Defence Forces. A counsellor is available to answer the care line at all times. The monitoring group plans to review the service after six months' operation. The service is fully confidential and is intended to complement existing personnel support services.