Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland, Mr Coveney said that the contact person will operate until such time as an independent review of the defence forces and its procedures for dealing with complaints of bullying and harassment was completed.
The Minister added that the Department of Defence will also be working with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre to provide appropriate support and counselling to serving and former members of the Defence Forces who have suffered sexual harassment, sexual assault or rape in the workplace.
Chain of command
The confidential contact person will be drawn from outside the Defence Forces and will act independently of the military chain of command and the Department of Defence, he said. “Someone who will listen, and put together a report on each case, reporting to me periodically, outlining issues that are arising.”
Mr Coveney said that the culture within the Defence Forces that allowed people to be bullied and harassed had to be stopped. It was not acceptable to him.
It was important that such behaviour be “stamped out” and that the defence forces adopt a zero tolerance policy. The confidential contact — which will operate under a service called ‘raiseaconcern’ — will be an interim measure as Mr Coveney said he was not prepared to wait for action and wanted the service to operate until a complete independent review was concluded.
Women and men in the defence forces needed a safe space where they could tell their stories and report wrongdoing, he said.