The army general in charge of an illegal drinking spree that ended with an assault was subsequently promoted.
rigadier general Brian Cleary was commander of the army’s Covid-19 response group, which broke pandemic restrictions with the social gathering. He was found to have displayed “a lack of judgment and supervision”.
The military top is already in the spotlight because of a report about a culture of verbal, physical and sexual abuse within the armed forces.
The report, prepared by the Independent Review Group, says the armed forces “hardly tolerate women”.
Several senior officers are now facing severe disciplinary action for keeping the party.
Tánaiste Micheál Martin has stepped up pressure on the Armed Forces Chief of Staff to take tougher disciplinary action against those in charge of the group that had barbecued alcohol during Covid-19 restrictions.
In government circles, a comparison is made with the fines imposed on senior State Department officials for a champagne party, which was a much less serious incident.
Alcohol was bought and served at the party at the Armed Forces Covid Task Force Headquarters at McKee Barracks in Dublin on June 25, 2020.
The party was attended by at least 37 people, despite restrictions that limited it to 15 gatherings at the time. The party started at 2pm and ended some time after 9:30pm.
The assault of one female soldier and the physical assault of another occurred after the event. A number of crimes, including assault, have been convicted by court martial and sentencing is pending.
The Armed Forces established a Joint Task Force comprising the Army, Navy and Air Corps in 2020 to assist in the fight against the pandemic, under the leadership of Brigadier General Cleary.
Although his military rank remained the same, later that year he was promoted to General Officer Commanding 1 Brigade, placing him in charge of the army in the south of the country, headquartered at Collins Barracks, Cork.
At that time, the allegations of party and sexual assault were investigated too late by the military police.
A subsequent independent investigation has now found that the holding of a barbecue – by the group responsible for the military’s pandemic response – was in violation of the restrictions, as “the requirements of the then Covid legislation were not adhered to” .
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Seán Clancy also condemned keeping the party.
“I will reiterate my position that this luncheon/BBQ should not have taken place, that it was unwise, inappropriate and should not have taken place in the given time and context. The incident reflects a lack of judgment and oversight by the JFT commander and his leadership team,” he said in a contribution to the investigation.
The chief of staff chastised three senior officers involved in violating the army’s rules on serving alcohol. The reprimand, called “parading” in military terms, is a verbal reprimand and goes on the officer’s personal file.
The Tánaiste has now ordered the Chief of Staff to “revise” these sentences and move on. Mr Martin said the organization of the event “represented very poor judgment on the part of all involved”.
However, he declined to say whether he had confidence in the commander.
“I’m not going to comment on individual officers,” he told police Irish independent.
Mr Martin pressured the Chief of Staff to take action on the wider review of the armed forces’ culture.
“We also cannot ignore the findings of the Mohan report, which was published last week, which also points to the need for a complete reset of the culture of the armed forces, with regard to responsibility and accountability,” he said this week in the Dail.
The armed forces said the chief of staff will review the matter “after the publication of the Mohan report and pending the outcome of the general court-martial”.
“Therefore, it is not appropriate to comment further on this matter,” said a spokesman.
The investigation by lawyer Hugh Mohan is damning for the seven-hour party that was held for entertainment and social reasons. that was part of the state’s critical response to the pandemic.”
Brig. Gen Cleary was asked to comment on the Mohan report and findings but did not respond.
President Michael D Higgins added his conviction to “criminal conduct” revealed in the Independent Review Group report.
The president said the review stressed that “there can be no continuation of this highly unacceptable, even criminal behavior.”
Pointing out that he is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, Mr Higgins said he read the report “with a sense of shame, but also with such pain for those who served women and men who had devoted their lives to serving our country and working as international peacekeepers and who have been abused while serving as members of the armed forces”.
The president said victims were often abused by those of higher rank.
“The report explicitly states that there is an ongoing systemic problem of incidents of bullying, harassment, discrimination and sexual harassment within the armed forces,” he added.