Gender: Limerick to Lebanon review ceremony hears that army should 'reflect society'

Maria Flannery


Maria Flannery

Troops being inspected ahead of their deployment to South Lebanon. Just 19 of the soldiers are women

Troops being inspected ahead of their deployment to South Lebanon. Just 19 of the soldiers are women

JUST 19 of the almost 350 Irish soldiers deploying to Lebanon as part of an upcoming UN mission are women — a figure which has prompted the country’s army chief to pledge his commitment to increased diversity in the ranks.

Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM, said that aiming to increase the number of women in the force would make operations more effective, and would not be tokenistic.

He made the comments during the review of the 111th Infantry Battalion at Limerick’s Sarsfield Barracks, ahead of the troops’ deployment.

“To be true to our ethos, we must continue to ensure that we reflect the society we serve, by developing and maintaining diversity within our organisation — both in terms of jointness and also amongst our personnel,” he said.

“I’m proud to lead a defence force where we value our personnel, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, creed or culture.”

The Defence Forces regularly come face-to-face with abuse cases while abroad on peacekeeping missions — and these crimes are often carried out against vulnerable women in areas of conflict.

“For us in the Defence Forces, institutionalising a gender perspective is not a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of operational effectiveness,” said the Vice Admiral.

“Exploitation and abuse are features of the nature of conflict in many of the areas we operate. Enhancing gender balance with more women serves as a force multiplier, in sensing the root cause of conflict, contributing greatly in resolving that conflict, and connecting with local populations.”

As well as broadening the skill base available for a peacekeeping mission, the army chief added that increasing gender balance and having more female soldiers would provide “role models for women both at home and abroad”.