Sunday, July 14, 2024

Cathal Crotty’s dismissal the ‘bare minimum’ says Natasha O’Brien

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By Aoife MooreBBC News NI’s Dublin reporter

BBC Natasha O'BrienBBC

Natasha O’Brien was attacked by soldier Cathal Crotty two years ago

The victim of an assault by an Irish soldier has said his dismissal from the armed forces would be the “bare minimum” outcome.

Cathal Crotty, 22, received a suspended sentence in June for violently attacking 24-year-old Natasha O’Brien in a Limerick street two years ago.

Ms O’Brien said if she didn’t speak out about the assault “nothing would have happened”.

The judge in the case, who has since retired, said the suspended sentence would help preserve Crotty’s “career”.

Crotty was discharged from the Irish Defence Forces on Thursday.

‘Victims are suffering’

Speaking to BBC News NI, Ms O’Brien said: “If I didn’t scream and shout, nothing would have happened and most victims don’t have that energy.”

She said she learned that Crotty was to be discharged after the media contacted her for a response.

“The general consensus was ‘that’s great’. Is it? It’s the bare minimum.

“It’s absolutely heartbreaking that this amount of national outcry… complete outrage has called for this.

“There are other victims that are suffering inside, watching their attackers live out their happy careers in the forces in, in sports, in any life in general.”

Crotty will attend Sarsfield Barracks in Limerick on Thursday, were he was based, to hand back his standard-issue equipment and uniform and have a medical, before being escorted off the premises and that will end his association with the Irish Defence Forces.

Crotty initially lied to Gardaí (Irish police), telling them he had been attacked first, before changing his story when confronted with CCTV.

He also boasted about the attack on Snapchat in the aftermath.

The case caused a national uproar when Ms O’Brien came forward to criticise how she had been treated.

During the court process, after she read out her victim impact statement detailing her extensive head injuries and mental anguish, a senior Irish Defence Forces officer told the court that Crotty was a well-mannered member of the army.

Lack of action

It was later revealed that 68 serving members of the defence forces have criminal convictions or are before the courts.

Now senior ministers and the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) have openly criticised the armed forces for their lack of action on those with criminal convictions.

Ms O’Brien has also called for an overhaul of how the Irish Defence Forces deal with criminal convictions.

“In dealing with my own individual perpetrator, that is merely a deflection of all the other issues that they also need to address,” she said.

“It needs to be completely reformed.”

On Wednesday the Social Democrats party tabled a motion on zero tolerance for gender-based violence at the Irish parliament.

Their leader, Holly Cairns, said she is not confident the government will act.

“I think the situation in the defence forces actually epitomises the half-hearted approach by government because it’s replicated throughout society with the lack of regulations in lots of sectors,” she said.

“We have a situation now whereby Cathal Crotty has been discharged on account of the serious convictions he has.

“And then we have a situation where we know there are a number of other people in exactly the same situation except they’re still in uniform because it hasn’t been in the glare of the media spotlight.”

Ms Cairns said the fact that it takes a “media spotlight” for action to be taken “is an indictment of the defence forces and the government”.

A spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces told the BBC News NI: “The Defence Forces unequivocally condemns any actions by serving personnel that are contrary to military regulations or that do not reflect our values.

“The Defence Forces does not comment on the specifics of individual cases.”

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