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Defence Forces face bullying probe after senior member concerned by cadet treatment

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Simon Coveney has taken over the brief formerly held by Paul Kehoe, who launched probe

Simon Coveney has taken over the brief formerly held by Paul Kehoe, who launched probe

Simon Coveney has taken over the brief formerly held by Paul Kehoe, who launched probe

An Independent investigation has been launched into bullying allegations in the Defence Forces cadet school at the Curragh Camp in Co Kildare.

It was initiated after a protected disclosure from someone working at the school.

The disclosure was made to former defence minister Paul Kehoe, who appointed a senior counsel to examine the complaints.

Treatment

A cadet did not make the allegations. They came from a more senior officer who was concerned about the treatment of new recruits.

Mr Kehoe ordered an independent investigation into the claims in his last week in office.

The terms of reference for the investigation were drafted by Department of Defence officials and a senior counsel was appointed to oversee the review.

Such allegations are usually investigated internally by military personnel, with an independent probe seen as a significant development.

The Department of Defence, which is currently part of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney's portfolio, confirmed an investigation had been launched.

"The minister has appointed a senior counsel to review matters pertaining to the conduct of training in the cadet school," a department spokesperson said.

"The review is under way and, therefore, the matters remain confidential."

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Paul Kehoe

Paul Kehoe

Paul Kehoe

The Defence Forces also confirmed an investigation is under way, in an almost identically- worded statement.

"The Defence Forces can confirm that the Defence Minister has appointed a senior counsel to review a matter pertaining to the cadet school," a spokesperson said.

"Given that the review is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further."

Mr Kehoe refused to comment when contacted.

The details of the investigation are unclear, but it is believed to relate to how new cadets are being treated.

The Defence Forces website says the cadet school's aim is to prepare recruits "morally, mentally and physically" for their role as leaders in the Irish Army.

It says it will imbue students with the Defence Forces' "values of respect, loyalty, selflessness, physical courage, moral courage and integrity".

"The objective of the course, the development of leaders of character and competence, is reflected in the concept of developing the whole person," it says.

"This concept requires the provision of the opportunity for increasing self-confidence, inculcating pride in achievement, developing physical and mental endurance and providing a foundation for intellectual growth."

It is not the first time bullying allegations have been made within the Defence Forces.

Sexual

Three years ago, it was reported that officials had investigated 10 cases of bullying and sexual harassment within a two-year period.

Between 2014 and September 2017, seven complaints of bullying were made, while three sexual harassment complaints were recorded.

Records show that in 2014, five complaints of bullying were made by Army personnel, while two incidents of sexual harassment were reported.

The following year, two complaints of bullying were made, while up until September 2016, one instance of sexual harassment was reported.