Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

17 years ago – Sexual Orientation and the Irish Defence Forces

February 3rd, 2010 · 3 Comments · Equality, Gay, Homophobia, Lesbian, LGBT

I was asked 3 times yesterday about gay people in the Irish Army and if they were allowed to serve. The hearings to examine the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) have commenced in the USA and Obama has promised to remove the bar on lesbians and gay men serving openly in the US Military.

It’s so long ago since there has been any public discourse in the Irish media on the matter.

The answer is yes – lesbians and gay men can openly serve in the defence forces, in fact there has been no preclusion but in 1993 when male homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland there was a significant change to make sure that there was no discrimination in terms of policy. At the same time as equal age of consent was introduced the Irish Defence Forces calmly announced that they would be treating heterosexuals and homosexuals equally – no relationships between senior and junior officers. No harassment of gay officers and no asking questions about peoples sexuality was also confirmed by Ministers and Army chiefs.

From the Irish Independent May 1993

In a related development, the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Noel Bergin, told the _Irish Independent_ on Tuesday that a report on the introduction of a code of conduct governing interpersonal relationships is being prepared. The decision to prepare a report follows a recent announcement by the Minister for Defence, Mr David Andrews, that military regulations would be modified to take account of any reform in the civil law on homosexuality. Mr Andrews is seen as a member of the liberal wing of the Fianna Fail party. Lt Gen Bergin pointed out that the Army does not ask potential recruits about their sexual orientation, and that they had few problems in the past in this area.

And a quote from the Dáil record in February 1993 from the then Minister for Defence David Andrews

51. Mr. Barry asked the Minister for Defence if there are regulations governing homosexuality for entrants to the Defence Forces; the current official position on the matter; if it is proposed to make any changes in the present regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Defence (Mr. Andrews)
: While the question of homosexuality is not specifically covered in Defence Force Regulations the provisions of section 169 of the Defence Act, 1954, provide that acts which are in breach of the criminal law of the State are also deemed to be offences against military law.

Information regarding sexual orientation is not sought from personnel wishing to enlist in the Defence Forces and it is not proposed to change this policy.

The Defence forces have a code on interpersonal relationships and guidelines in relation to discrimination – see Section 4 par 119.

I’m sure there is still discrimination faced by gay and lesbian members of the defence forces but the policy would indicate that there is no bar on lesbians and gay men working in this area. Other lgbt historians and folklorists may wish to add information to this post?

Maybe we could send current Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea to Washington to tell them all about it? It’s 17 years ago since the issue was dealt with here and 17 years since it was last debated in the Capitol Hill.

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