Former female members of the Defence Forces made allegations of abuse in RTÉ documentary Women of Honour, while also calling for reform of Óglaigh na hÉireann.
Karina Molloy, who was the first woman to reach senior non-commissioned officer rank as company quartermaster sergeant, said she “could not stay silent” about a dozen incidents.
On her first overseas mission, Ms Molloy said she was given a ‘birthday present’ in front of a group of male colleagues.
Upon opening it, she discovered “a pair of sexy underwear”. In the crotch was written: “I wish I was here”.
Another female recruit was instructed what underwear to wear, and told she could not use tampons.
Other female recruits described incidents of sexual assault and rape.
These incidents led to women suffering with eating disorders, distress, trauma, mental anguish and suicide attempts.
Ms Molloy said she reported incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault at the hands of a superior officer, before being told to “forget it”.
In response to queries from The Irish Times, a spokeswoman for the Defence Forces said it would be “inappropriate for Óglaigh na hÉireann to comment on individual cases or allegations of a criminal or disciplinary nature”.
“As an organisation, we treat all incidents of sexual harassment, harassment and assault with the utmost seriousness,” she said.
“All serving members and former members deserve to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and have the right to carry out their duties free from any forms of such behaviour that runs contrary to Defence Forces values, military discipline and the Defence Forces code of conduct.
“We are committed to ensuring that all personnel are provided with a safe working environment as per the dignity charter for the Defence Forces.
“Óglaigh na hÉireann urges anyone who has been the victim of alleged criminality, breaches of military discipline, or who has been the victim of any such behaviour, or anyone with information of alleged criminality who is speaking on behalf of a victim, recent or historic, to present that information to the Military Police or An Garda Síochána.
“Óglaigh na hÉireann will continue to fully support, facilitate and, where required, co-operate with any subsequent investigation once initiated.”
A number of opposition parties in the Dáil have called for an independent inquiry over the allegations.
Sinn Féin defence spokeswoman Sorca Clarke said: “These allegations of sexual violence, harassment, abuse and discrimination within the Defence Forces are very serious and deeply concerning.
“I want to commend all those who have bravely come forward to share their stories. The Defence Forces have a responsibility to act on these allegations and ensure that they are addressed urgently.
“There must be a zero tolerance approach to all forms of harassment, bullying and violence in all workplaces.
“I support survivors’ calls for an independent inquiry into these allegations. It is imperative that immediate action is taken to establish the extent of these issues and ensure that steps are taken to ensure justice for survivors.”
Labour’s defence spokesperson Mark Wall said there should be an “urgent review”.
“The situations described are horrific,” he said. “No woman should ever have to experience what was described in the show.
“The Minister needs to immediately appoint an independent person to investigate the culture and practices as they relate to misogyny, harassment and bullying within the forces. There must be a root and branch review of what is going on.”