Army barracks lunch during covid 'shouldn't have happened'

Army barracks lunch during covid 'shouldn't have happened'

Tánaiste and Defence Minister Micheál Martin published the report into the issues arising out of the event at McKee Barracks in Dublin. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

A boozy lunch at an army barracks in June 2020 broke covid rules in place at the time and resulted in one member facing 18 separate charges, including sexual assault, an independent report has found.

Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin published the report into the issues arising out of the event at McKee Barracks in Dublin, which was compiled by Hugh Mohan SC.

Mr Mohan was asked to conduct the investigation after a protected disclosure about the lunch/BBQ alleged a breach of covid regulations and the physical and sexual assault of two female members of the Defence Forces at the event.

Covid restrictions

At the time, covid restrictions prohibited events exceeding 15 people.

Mr Mohan said the very idea of having such an event was a decision “which lacked judgement and ought not to have happened”. He said there was significant leadership failings surrounding the planning, organisation, and holding of the event, particularly given the provision of alcohol.

“It is clear there were personnel/attendees consuming alcohol for several hours,” Mr Mohan said. “It ultimately ended up in a situation which resulted in serious allegations being made which are now being dealt with by the appropriate military authorities.”

On the day after the BBQ, a complaint was made of an alleged assault by a male member of personnel to McKee Barracks command staff.

The report said it was alleged that a man “was drunk and disorderly and used inappropriate and offensive language with sexual undertones” and that his conduct “included physical contact”.

Furthermore, in August 2020, WhatsApp messages about the incident apparently containing details of the alleged assault were circulated and concern was expressed “that such an incident should occur and might occur to other females in the future”.

18 charges

The accused faced 18 separate charges and pleaded guilty to a number of them, including behaving in a disorderly manner and that he committed minor assaults. He was acquitted on several charges but found guilty on two charges, “one of which was a form of sexual assault”.

Mr Mohan made a number of recommendations in his report, including a revised alcohol policy and a formal protocol to inform the Department of Defence of certain incidents.

Reacting to the contents of the report, the Tánaiste said: “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. Lessons have to be learned from this event.”

He added: “Having read the report it is absolutely clear that this event should not have been organised, and it was wrong to do so during a time when many people were subject to emergency public health restrictions.

“The organisation of this event represented very poor judgement by all concerned. The Chief of Staff accepts this and has applied necessary military sanctions to those involved. I have now asked the Chief of Staff to review this matter further.”

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