Gender-based Violence

Doctor Tom Clonan discussing gender equality
Doctor Tom Clonan discussing gender equality and gender parity.

From 1996 to 2000 – over two decades before the #MeToo movement – Tom Clonan, as a serving Army Officer, completed his Doctoral research on Widespread Sexual Violence in the Irish Defence Forces. He documented the accounts of 60 women in the Irish Armed Forces and their experiences of rape and sexual assault. When his research was published, he became the target – a sustained campaign of whistle-blower reprisal. Transparency International Ireland referred to Senator Clonan’s experience as a ‘Text Book’ case of Whistleblower Reprisal.

This reprisal consisted of a campaign of character assasination which targeted Senator Clonan and his young family. The Irish Military authorities alleged that he had fabricated his doctoral research and falsified its findings on sexual violence. He was accused of breaching the official Secrets Act. Military Police were sent to his home to intimidate him.

Senator Clonan demanded an Independent Government Enquiry to investigate the toxic workplace culture of the army. The Study Review Group vindicated Clonan and his work in 2003. The Independent Government Enquiry confirmed Clonan’s research findings, conclusions and recommendations.

Clonan continues after 23 years to campaign for equality, diversity and dignity in the workplace for the Irish Defence Forces – and all areas of Irish life.

Photo of Tom and the Women of Honour in the Oireachtas

Senator Clonan continues to campaign against gender discrimination and sexual violence:

• Senator Clonan hosted former women members of the Irish Defence Forces who were featured in Katie Hannon’s RTÉ documentary Women of Honour into Leinster House. During a subsequent speech in the Seanad, he put on the public record the fact that women in the Irish Armed Forces – targeted for sexual harassment – have been obliged to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). This is an unacceptable and abhorrent practice and must be stopped with immediate effect.

• Following the broadcast of the Women of Honour documentary, Irish Armed Forces personnel of all genders confided in him about their experiences of rape and sexual assault. The Judge led Inquiry ‘The Independent Review Group’ will further report on this in 2023.

• In 2020, Senator Clonan was a member of the Higher Education Authority’s expert group on Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment in Ireland’s third-level sector. In 2021, he was appointed to the Technological University, Dublin (TUD) High-Level Task Force on Ending Sexual Violence and Harassment.

Women of Honour

Read all Tom’s Gender Equality News