The Defence Forces have set up their own service called Defend With Pride, which Vice Admiral Mark Mellett said would provide aid, information and guidance for LGBT personnel and allies who wish to support colleagues, friends, and family.
“The provision and fostering of a diverse and inclusive workplace environment, reflective of Irish society is our moral duty and, for the Defence Forces, it means better decision-making, better agility, better resilience,” the officer said.
The launch was attended by Brian Sheehan, executive director of GLEN (Gay, Lesbian Equality Network) and Catherine Vaughan, from Ernst & Young, who is a diversity champion who spoke on inclusive workplaces.
Vice Adm Mellett signalled his intention to introduce the new support service when he addressed delegates at the annual PDForra conference.
PDForra represents more than 7,000 soldiers, sailors, and aircrews.
The vice admiral told PDForra delegates there was an “overarching priority” to make the Irish military a force which values “all personnel regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed or culture”.
Vice Adm Mellett said he wanted the new generation of entrants, and those already in the Defence Forces, to be developed and facilitated to achieve their maximum potential regardless of their orientations.
“We need to continue to institutionalise a culture of diversity and inclusiveness wherever we operate. With that in mind, the Defence Forces diversity and inclusion strategy will be published shortly and will set out our strategic objectives in this regard,” he said.
He said Defend With Pride would be “a further initiative to improve the peer and organisational support mechanisms available to our personnel.”
Vice Admiral Mellett said that “no one should feel uncomfortable in the workplace.”
PDForra assistant general secretary Ger Guinan said his organisation welcomed the Defend With Pride initiative.
“It is very welcome especially among the LGBT community in the Defence Forces and PDForra fully supports diversity in the workplace,” Mr Guinan said.
He said he was unaware of the total number of LGBT-orientated personnel in the Defence Forces.
Mr Guinan said Defend With Pride was an initiative which was designed to make the Defence Forces more inclusive and it would make it more attractive to recruits.
However, he said the main stumbling block to recruitment and low retention in the Defence Forces poor pay, especially for those entering the Defence Forces who had a starting salary of just over €21,000 a year.
Hundreds are leaving the Defence Forces every year before the age of retirement, many taking up jobs with better pay and conditions in the private sector.
“This will also have to be addressed,” said Mr Guinan.