The Minister for Defence has told the Dáil that he, the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces and the Secretary General of the Department are fully committed to ensuring that all members of the forces have the right to be treated with respect, and dignity.

He was speaking about the experiences of the women in the RTÉ documentary 'Women of Honour'.

The documentary uncovered allegations of sexism, bullying, sexual assault and rape in the Defence Forces.

The minister met with five of the women on Tuesday and separately met with 14 serving members.

Simon Coveney said he "absolutely believed" the women and apologised to those who have suffered.

"This issue is a big priority for me and the meetings I had this week... were deeply impactful".

He expressed his deep appreciation of the women, and the courage it took to bring their stories forward.

"This is an issue that we are going to get a handle on", and "deliver real change", Minister Coveney said.

Anyone joining the Defence Forces deserves to know that they will be "treated with respect, that they will be safe, that they won't be discriminated against, that they certainly won't be sexually abused or harassed", he said.

There is a need for "fundamental change in terms of attitudes of some people", he said.

He was replying to Sinn Féin TD Sorca Clarke who asked what the terms of reference for the review are.

The minister said they were being finalised, following the meetings with the women involved.

Read more: External review to look at Defence Forces abuse allegations
Call for inquiry into Defence Forces allegations

The minister told the Dáil that a structure to allow "an ongoing engagement" with the Women of Honour is being put in place.

Simon Coveney said he is "absolutely committed" that "the serious issues raised will be addressed comprehensively".

He told the House that he is committed to ensuring that everyone has confidence in the "review mechanism".

The culture in the Defence Forces, and the application of procedures for dealing with bullying and abuse, "have not and are not serving all defence force personnel well".

The minister said the women are seeking change, so that "inappropriate behaviour" is not tolerated.

He repeated that he is looking to establish interim solutions to support defence force members - past and present.

Independent TD Catherine Connolly asked whether Non-Disclosure Agreements had been used, and if so, how many.

"I have seen some protected disclosures that have come to me", the Minister said, adding he cannot comment on them.

Several TDs praised the women who came forward, and RTÉ journalist Katie Hannon, for their courage.

Simon Coveney said 48 protected disclosures were made in the Defence Forces from 2014 to 2021.

He said there were two in 2014, three in 2015, two in 2016, 11 in 2017, four in 2019, 12 in 2020 and 10 so far this year.

Each case is assessed, and a course of action recommended, he said.

"I am satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards and processes in place to provide protection to disclosers", the minister added.