The largest representative body for soldiers in the country has said new figures indicating just a handful of cases of alleged bullying in recent years are only “a small proportion” of the actual scale of the issue.
Figures released to the Irish Examiner under Freedom of Information show that in 2014 and 2015 there were seven cases of alleged bullying investigated, with as yet no disciplinary action resulting.
Five of those cases were based on allegations registered in 2014 and the investigations have concluded with no action taken.
Two cases from last year are still being investigated.
The Defence Forces did not release details as to the nature of the allegations, or the ranks of those making the allegations of bullying and against whom the allegations were made.
The general secretary of the Permanent Defence Force Other Ranks Representative Association (PDForra), Gerry Rooney, said the Defence Forces did not necessarily have higher incidences of bullying than any other profession.
But he suggested the figures reported appeared “infinitesimal”.
“From our experience people touch base with us all the time regarding things like that and especially with allegations of bullying.”
Referring to the figures released under FOI, he said: “That is people who have formally gone into the system.
“I would say they are only a small proportion regarding circumstances where people feel they have been bullied.
“It is not the case that it is always bullying — the typical working day and arrangements and circumstances that we work under are not typical.”
He said younger people, in particular, may perceive that the treatment they are receiving is bullying, whereas it might not be.
But he said: “It does not surprise me there was no disciplinary action because most investigation is done internally. Generally they look to protect the system and those in the hierarchy of that system.”
In its response the Defence Forces said all cases in relation to claims and allegations of bullying are investigated in accordance with regulations, namely Admin Instruction A7 Chapter 1.
“It is the official practice of the Director [of] Military Police not to release military Investigation reports other than to the Unit Commander who has authorised the Investigation Report,” it said, adding that it had deferred to the Department of Defence any questions over any possible compensation paid out.
Mr Rooney said the Defence Forces were hierarchical “and rightly so” and said any organisation with 10,000 people working within it was likely to have some issues with bullying. But he said the fact so few cases were investigated and the fact none resulted in any disciplinary action so far “probably shows that is not possible”.
He said it was “a confidence issue” and if people saw that certain issues were being addressed then it was possible more people would come forward.
“I am not suggesting the Defence Forces has any more bullying than any other organisations,” he said.
He said a big difference between the Defence Forces and their counterparts in the UK was fewer members in Ireland lived in barracks.
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