An independent report has found that an event in McKee Barracks in June 2020, at which two female members of the Defence Forces were alleged to have been physically and sexually assaulted, was in breach of Covid regulations at the time, should not have taken place and showed significant lapses of supervision and judgement.
The report by Senior Counsel Hugh Mohan found that the organisation of the event was "against the spirit" of the phase-two lockdown that was in place at the time and was not conduct that would have been expected from a team that was part of the State's critical response to the pandemic.
It said that the BBQ lunch, which had free alcohol that was funded by a €300 grant from Mess Funds, began at around 2pm and went on until 9.30pm.
The event was attended by at least 37 members of the Joint Task Force, which was established to manage and direct the Defence Force’s contribution to the national response to Covid-19.
The attendees, some of whom were in uniform, were identified by a group picture taken at the event.
"Given the Task Force was actually a critical part of the State's response to the pandemic, a function of this nature should not have even been countenanced, let alone held in the manner it was. The fact that it took place and the manner in which it was held shows significant lapses of judgement and supervision.
"The very fact that alcohol was purchased and was being served, regardless of whether it was on sale or not, to a group of people in excess of 15, was in the circumstances against the very spirit of what was required of all citizens of the country, let alone what would have been expected of a team that was part of the State's critical response to the pandemic."
It said that while all attendees in the photographs gave statements, none were able to "throw any light" on an alleged incident between a male and a female in the foyer of McKee Barracks Mess that evening.
It said that around 11.30pm, two female Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs) who were in charge of closing the gym found a male member of personnel asleep in a chair outside the gym.
It is then alleged that he was drunk and disorderly, used inappropriate and offensive language with sexual undertones, and had physical contact with the two NCOs.
Military Police inquiry
These events became the subject of a Military Police investigation and subsequently a Court Martial, which began in September 2022 and lasted a number of weeks.
The accused subsequently faced 18 separate charges.
He pleaded guilty to a number of charges including, that he behaved in a disorderly manner due to being under the influence of alcohol, that he committed conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline and that he committed minor assaults.
He was found guilty on two charges, one of which was a form of sexual assault.
While military sanction has been imposed on those involved in the event, in a statement tonight, Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin said he has asked the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces to "review this matter further".
He said the event should not have been organised and that lessons must be learned from it.
"There is zero tolerance to any type of assault whether verbal, physical or sexual. This has absolutely no place in the Defence Forces or any other workplace."
The report recommended the way alcohol is served at an army barracks should be reworked and modernised, with dedicated protocols that are documented and sanctions for breaches of these rules.
The report also highlighted the delay in the issuing of reports on the matters by Military Police.
It said that while both the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces acknowledge the fact that the independence of the Military Police process has to be protected and upheld, it found that the Department of Defence is entitled to be informed of what has happened or is happening.
The report says the Minister for Defence is entitled to such information and a formal protocol should be established to allow the transfer of such information when its sought.