Features / June 24, 2024

Women’s Safety Is Being Prioritised Less Than Men’s Careers in the Defence Force

Image: Specna Arms
Features / June 24, 2024

Women’s Safety Is Being Prioritised Less Than Men’s Careers in the Defence Force

Text: Izzy Copestake

Where is the justice?

In 2020, David O’Gorman, a serving Irish Naval Officer, punched his former girlfriend in the head with both hands so violently that he left one of her eyes permanently displaced, and she feared for her life. Last summer, he pleaded guilty to assault causing harm. Today, he is still a serving member of the defence forces.

Judge Tom O’Donnell suspended O’Gorman’s sentence last autumn after the Naval officer agreed to make a substantial payment to the victim, who accepted the offer. Despite confessing to the violent assault and avoiding jail time, O’Gorman remains a serving member of the defense force.

As reported in The Irish Times, the Defence Forces stated: “Once due process has been completed in a civilian court of law, it is then a matter for the relevant Defence Forces authorities in accordance with military regulations. In the case you refer to, an administrative process is ongoing and the Naval Service has engaged with the court service in that regard. For this reason, it would be inappropriate to make further comment on this matter at this time.”

This case has resurfaced following protests over the leniency of the suspended sentence of another serving soldier, Cathal Crotty. In 2022, Crotty beat Natasha O’Brien unconscious in a random street attack and later boasted about it online. Last week, the same judge who presided over the David O’Gorman case, Judge Tom O’Donnell, gave Crotty a fully suspended sentence, stating that Crotty “must be given credit” for his guilty plea. It should be noted that Crotty only confessed after seeing CCTV footage of himself violently beating O’Brien; before this, he attempted to blame her. Judge Tom O’Donnell also stated that he had “no doubt” that if Crotty were jailed, his army career would be over.

In 2023, Tánaiste published a report which focussed on dignity and equality issues in the Defence Forces. The report concluded that the Defence Forces are seen as resistant to change, with outdated HR policies and procedures that are inadequate for addressing unacceptable behaviour, bullying, discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment. This investigation came with the hope of change, but where is it?

Two serving officers who pleaded guilty to violently beating a woman, sentenced by the same judge, have walked free and been allowed to continue their careers in the Irish Defence Forces. In 2022, we were promised a “Zero Tolerance strategy” to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Where is it?

Elsewhere on District: Record Levels of Domestic Abuse Recorded in Ireland