By Sean O’Riordan and Fiachra Ó Cionnaith
Male naval personnel were forced to change on the side of a road and female colleagues in a mini-bus with no curtains before Sunday’s national commemoration events after a room set aside for them was allegedly used for a “VIP reception”.
Fianna Fáil and Defence Forces lobby groups have demanded an investigation into what happened, saying the incident has again shown how officers are applauded in public despite facing unacceptable conditions in private.
The Irish Examiner understands thatm after travelling from the Haulbowline naval base at 4am on Sundaymorning to the commemoration event at Collins Barracks in Dublin, naval personnel were expected to change into formal attire.
However, when they arrived at the event, which was attended by President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, and other dignitaries, they were told that a changing room reserved for them had been “commandeered” for a “VIP reception”.
After being turned away at the event — which was meant to commemorate commend those who died in conflicts — male sailors were forced to change on the side of a busy city road. Female sailors separately had to change in a mini-bus with no curtains.
Wives and Partners of the Defence Forces spokeswoman Shelly Cotter told the Irish Examiner her group wants answers as to what happened.
Noting that the planned changing room had been switched, she said: “The women were highly uncomfortable changing in the mini-bus because it didn’t have any curtains.
“We want an investigation and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. We want their dignity restored.”
PDForra mirrored the claims, with its president, Mark Keane, saying: “We’re seeking answers. We thought incidents like this were confined to the past. It’s embarrassing.”
In a statement via the Department of Defence, the Defence Forces took the blame for the incident, saying: “Regrettably, this occurred due to a miscommunication on our part. It has been identified in our after action review and we will put measures in place to address this oversight.”
Government sources also said that while the incident occurred, it did not involve a VIP reception.
However, despite the comments, Fianna Fáil defence spokesman Jack Chambers said last night: “This is the latest shameful chapter for this Government and its treatment of the Defence Forces.”