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21/09/2021

Minister for Defence Simon Coveney visits Curragh Camp ahead of Infantry's trip to Syria

Pic: Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

Pic: Minister for Defence Simon Coveney

Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has visited the Curragh Camp today, ahead of the 64th Infantry's upcoming deployment to Syria.

The former Tánaiste was due to review and address the troops later today, as the Infantry is set to once more become part of the United Nations' Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights.

Minister Coveney is also currently facing numerous calls to establish a review into allegations of sexual abuse in the Irish defence forces.

The calls come following a recent RTE Radio documentary, Women of Honour, about four female members of the defence forces talked about alleged sexual abuse they suffered within the army.

The Department of Defence has said that the Minister "would like to express concern" for the welfare of the women who recounted their experiences on the Women of Honour programme.

It added that all members of the Defence Forces have a right to be treated with respect, equality and dignity and to carry out their duties free from any form of sexual harassment, harassment or bullying, and that Mr. Coveney is committed to meeting with the women profiled, should they wish to do so and will be taking steps to make contact.

Earlier this year in March, Minister Coveney's office responded to claims of a paedophile ring in the Curragh Camp, and added that it had received information on for a number of months.

A statement from his office at the time said that Mr. Coveney is "fully cognisant of the trauma suffered by victims and he is aware of the need to establish the veracity of what is alleged."

However, the office also said that since a third party delivered the information, verification has proven difficult, but gardaí had still been notified of the alleged abuse at the Camp.

His response was notably criticised by whistleblower Anthony O' Brien, even going so far as to allege that Minister Coveney had not read his letter detailing the alleged abuse.

Minister Coveney is set to face a motion of no confidence from Sinn Fein over his over his handling of Katherine Zappone's controversial proposed appointment as a special envoy for the UN when the Dáil resumes this week.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call Samaritans Ireland at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie, or you can contact the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre by visiting drcc.ie.

Help is always at hand and there is always someone available to listen.

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