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Speech by Mr. Willie O’Dea, T.D., Minister for Defence, at the launch of the Independent Monitoring Group’s Second Report

McKee Barracks Dublin 17th December 2008.

Secretary General, Acting Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Members of the Defence Forces, ladies and gentlemen, I am very pleased to welcome the Second Report of the Independent Monitoring Group (IMG). As Dr. Doyle has stated, this report reviews progress made by the Permanent Defence Force since the publication, in September 2004, of Response to the Challenge of a Workplace.

The guiding principles have not changed. While military life entails robust and effective military training, such training must, however, take place in a professional service environment that fully respects individual human dignity. Bullying and harassment are wrong. They are entirely unacceptable in themselves and wholly incompatible with a successful and modernising organization.

The 2004 recommendations emphasised improving human resource management and workplace culture, including dealing with the issues of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment. Four years on this second report of the IMG provides us with a systematic review of progress. This Report confirms that the culture of the Defence Force organisation is evolving positively and notes that the recorded number of incidents of unacceptable behavior is low.

Culture change is a journey rather than a destination. I would strongly echo the Dr. Doyle’s words about the necessity for constant vigilance. The report has many recommendations to chart the way ahead in continuing to meet the demands for dignity and equality in the military workplace. I welcome the fact that the report also reflects changes in society more generally. It is clear that every member of the Defence Forces has a role to play. We must keep this crucial issue to the forefront in the activities and procedures of the Defence Forces. I am committed to regularly reviewing progress and performance and this is reflected in the Programme for Government.

The report highlights the initiatives undertaken by the Defence Forces in the area of human resource management and workplace culture since 2004.

An Equality Officer was appointed and the first ‘Defence Forces Equality, Diversity and Equal Status Policies’ prepared.

A comprehensive Human Resource Management Strategy covering the period 2006 to 2010 was published.

The Defence Forces has committed to achieving the FÁS Excellence Through People (ETP) award. To date, eighteen Units/Formations have been successful in achieving the award.

A New Entrants Information Handbook was introduced including details of the Defence Forces Dignity Charter on harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying.

Some 232 fully trained Designated Contact Persons (DCP’s) are now in place throughout the Organisation and facilitate the operation of the formal and informal procedures for dealing with incidents of alleged bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Earlier this year the Defence Forces conducted their first internal climate survey by way of questionnaire sent to over 1,000 personnel of all ranks. The survey provides a snapshot of the organisation through the attitudes and perceptions of a random sample of personnel and proved valuable to the Group. It also provides a benchmark for future studies.

The 2008 IMG report contains in excess of forty (40) specific recommendations. Implementation of these recommendations will require the concerted and combined effort of both the military and the Department. I look forward to being kept informed of progress in this regard.

I would also like to publicly acknowledge the very great contribution made by those external agencies and individuals, who have given us so much advice, help and support throughout this undertaking. Their contribution was crucial and indispensable. In that regard, I would like to thank Dr. Mark Morgan of St. Patrick’s Training College and Bernadette Kinsella, Assistant General Secretary of the Joint Managerial Body of Independent Schools who acts as external consultant to the DCP Consultative Committee. The input of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, Ms. Paulyn Marrinan Quinn was very much appreciated.

I would also like to record my appreciation for the contribution of time and effort from all members of the IMG. The contribution of the Representative Associations has been vital. I wish to thank all members of the Defence Forces who engaged with the Group in a constructive and positive manner and contributed to the quality of the report.

Finally and especially I want to pay particular tribute to Dr. Doyle. Dr. Doyle has led both the first and second Monitoring Groups with skill commitment and professionalism. So much of what has been achieved by the Defence Forces and the path ahead has come from your inspiring guidance and wisdom. Thank you.

The Defence Forces are on the right path. I am confident that this process will now be carried forward with enthusiasm and be further advanced and consolidated in the coming years.

Thank you.

ENDS


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