|McKee Barracks Dublin Friday 24th September 2004.|
Secretary General, Chief of Staff, Distinguished Guests, Members of the Defence Forces, ladies and gentlemen, I very much welcome and endorse the Independent Monitoring Group’s Report entitled “Response to the Challenge of a Workplace” submitted by the special Independent Monitoring Group on the Doyle Report.
The Report describes the progress achieved since the publication of the Doyle Report ‘Challenge of the Workplace’ in 2002.
At the time when the Doyle Report was published, I believed that no-one would be better qualified to oversee a comprehensive program for implementing the recommendations of that Report than Dr. Doyle herself. That is why I invited her to chair the Monitoring Group, a task that she has carried out with great skill, commitment and professionalism for the past two years. And I believe that, under her inspiring guidance, the Monitoring Group has achieved exceptional results since its establishment in 2002.
The process of fundamental cultural and organizational change is an immense challenge for any organization. This is particularly so within a military environment where the maintenance of discipline and authority is recognized as essential. Military life entails a career-long program of robust and effective military training. However, such training must take place in a professional service environment that fully respects individual human dignity. Bullying and harassment are wrong and entirely unacceptable in themselves. They are also incompatible with a successful and achieving organization.
This progress report is a model of clarity. It describes what has already been achieved and what now still needs to be done. It identifies how and by whom the remaining work needs to be done. Moreover, the Monitoring Group has already achieved a great deal by putting key recommendations into effect through sensible practical common sense measures. These are all fully detailed in the report.
Two points made in the report stand out in my mind:
First, that recognition of the existence of a problem is the first step towards tackling it.
Second, that measures to combat this particular problem can never come to an end; at all times the process must be ongoing. We all know that there is no magic formula that can change human nature. Wherever you have people you will have the potential for unacceptable behaviour.
The Group has pointed out that the Defence Forces must put the right policies in place as quickly as possible. This we will do. We must then implement those policies by developing the proper regulatory environment. Both the policy and the procedures must be continually reviewed for relevance and effectiveness.
In addition, the Group has explicitly recommended that a further independent review and audit of progress within the Defence Forces be carried out no later than 2007.
This too will be done.
A very good start has already been made in addressing our problems and real, measurable achievements have been logged over the past few years.
Firm guiding principles have been set out in the Defence Forces Dignity in the Workplace Charter.
The Monitoring Group has overseen the conduct of a major educational awareness program throughout the Defence Forces.
A new Administrative Instruction on Interpersonal Relationships was introduced in March 2003 and a users guide was distributed to every member of the Defence Forces.
This new Instruction describes the six key relevant domains of interpersonal relationship within the Defence Forces. It sets out contemporary best practice for policy and procedures in dealing with negative workplace behaviours. It lists the full set of formal and informal complaint procedures that may be utilized by any party wishing to institute a complaint.
Some 200 specially trained Designated Contact Persons are being put in place throughout the organization to facilitate the operation of these procedures. 42 of these have already been trained and a strategic plan is in place to develop the numbers up to 200.
An independent and external confidential ‘Free Phone’ Helpline and Counselling service has been set up by expert consultants from Northern Ireland, Staff Care Services. Each serving member of the Permanent Defence Forces was informed of this new 24-hour service, which was also widely publicized in the Defence Forces when initiated in March 2003.
A pilot project to record the experiences and views of outgoing members of the Defence Forces was conducted out by the Dublin Institute of Technology Research Centre. This project, which involved confidential interviews and questionnaires proved very valuable.
The particular challenges of the military training environment were identified in the Doyle report. This area has been given particular attention in the course of the last two years, especially as regards the key pivotal roles of NCOs in leadership and training within Brigade formations. Focus groups of NCOs have proven useful here and external experts were sourced for training of these crucial NCO cadres. There has been a sustained emphasis on “training the trainers.”
The monitoring group has made a series of important recommendations concerning the ranking, selection, training and reward systems for officer and NCO instructors in the Cadet School. I am convinced that an immediate change in the training of cadets will have a vital demonstration effect. I have therefore decided that the process of introducing these changes will begin with the 2004 cadet intake. Some of the changes will take longer to implement and will be addressed through the Conciliation and Arbitration process or the overall review of Defence Forces organisation. I believe that all parties should make a commitment to complete the implementation of these changes in time for the 2005 intake.
The Equality Steering Group was established in Autumn 2003 and has conducted its own independent study under a Labour Court chairperson of Defence Force Regulations and Administrative Instructions. Its comprehensive audit examined policy and procedures in the light of existing civil statutory requirements such as Employment Equality and Equal Status. Both representative associations sat on the Group along with military and civil Defence representatives. The Group played a most important role in informing the deliberations of the Monitoring Group.
The Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Bill completed all stages in the Dáil in July and will proceed to the Senate in the next fortnight. The Bill should pass all stages before the end of October. The provision of a statutory Ombudsman for the Defence Forces will provide a further significant impetus in support of the major transformation in culture and practice which has been initiated and which is now well underway.
I want to record my own personal appreciation of the immense personal commitment of time and effort given to this entire process by every person who has served both on the Monitoring Group and on the Equality Steering Group. In particular, the representative associations have played a vital and indispensable collective role in leading by example throughout the organization in their respective capacities.
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 this regard, I would like to thank Dr. Mark Morgan of St. Patricks Training College, Joyce McKee and Marion Gibson of Staff Care Services in Belfast who established and maintain the Independent Confidential Helpline; Pat Pierce of the Labour Court who chaired the Equality Steering Group; Dr. Geraldine Gorham from the Research Centre at the Dublin Institute of Technology who devised the programme of exit interviews and Bernadette Kinsella, Assistant General Secretary of the Joint Managerial Body of Independent Schools who designed the informal complaints procedure and the associated programmes of intensive training.
The Defence Forces are in the process of developing an active and strategic Human Resource Management model of personnel management, development and leadership under the new Integrated Personnel Management System. This is a most important step that will facilitate and hasten the achievement and consolidation of our shared objectives. The tangible end result will be a modern and contemporary Defence Forces - an organization that can serve as an international role model.
Every single member of the Defence Forces has a right to be treated with respect and dignity and to work within the Defence Forces free from harassment, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination.
A process of profound cultural change has been set in train at all levels of the organization over the last few years. I am confident that this process will now be carried forward with enthusiasm and be further advanced and consolidated in the coming years.
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