Cillian Sherlock, PA
The Women of Honour group, which represents female members of the Defence Forces, has called for Government appointees to an independent oversight board to be vetted by an Oireachtas committee.
In a statement, the group said it had not received “satisfactory” answers about the oversight board from Tánaiste and Minister for Defence Micheál Martin.
The proposed board follows a recommendation in a report by the independent review group (IRG) into the Defence Forces, which the Women of Honour said did not include an assessment of the Department of Defence.
The report recommended that the membership of the external oversight body of the Defence Forces should include the secretary general of the department, a suggestion criticised by Women of Honour.
“Surely for the sake of transparency and to engender confidence, alternatives outside of the Department of Defence would be more appropriate,” Women of Honour said in a statement.
“We remain of a view that the secretary general of the Department of Defence should not be a member of the oversight board as it is a potential and serious conflict that needs to be vetted.”
The statement added: “Such vetting would normally be done by the Public Appointments Service but no such scrutiny or transparency has been allowed by the Tánaiste.”
The group said it was concerned Mr Martin could not separate himself from the role of Minister for Defence.
“We will be raising this with the Taoiseach when we see him shortly following contact from his office.”
It added: “We will be raising this with the Taoiseach and asking him to take the Department of Defence out of the liaison with victims, out of the establishment of the tribunal and out of the oversight board.
“It is not appropriate, insensitive, and like having the fox in the chicken coop.”
“We don’t think the Taoiseach would have tolerated the Bishops’ Conference being the secretariat to investigations into the church.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Defence said the Government agreed to prioritise the IRG’s recommendations.
The department said this included the setting up of an external oversight body, on a non-statutory basis initially, to “increase transparency and accountability; and to drive necessary culture change throughout the Defence Forces”.
“The calibre and combined skills and experience of the members of the body, under the chair of Professor Brian MacCraith, is exceptional and both the Government and Tánaiste are confident in their ability to carry out their important role effectively.”
Mr Martin intends to make further appointments to the body in the “near future”.
The first task of the body is to develop detailed terms of reference for the approval of the Tánaiste.