'Do your jobs' urges Irish soldier assault victim

Natasha O'Brien
Natasha O'Brien spoke outside the Irish parliament on Tuesday evening [PA Media]

The victim of an assault by a serving Irish soldier who avoided prison has said politicians and the Irish Defence Forces need to "do your jobs" and address gender-based crime.

Natasha O'Brien was speaking as hundreds of people attended a protest outside the Dáil (Irish Parliament) in Dublin on Tuesday evening.

Last week, Cathal Crotty, 22, was given a three-year suspended sentence for an attack on her in which he punched her six times in the street in May 2022.

Ms O'Brien's injuries included a broken nose and bruising.

Crotty later boasted about the attack on social media.

When sentencing, the judge said it was a "cowardly, vicious, unprovoked" assault but that he had no doubt Crotty's army career would be over if he was jailed.

It led to protests in support of the victim in four different Irish cities.

'They're going to feel the pressure'

Ms O'Brien was in the parliament earlier when politicians discussed the case.

At one point TDs (members of the Irish Parliament) rose to give her a standing ovation.

However, speaking at the protest, Ms O'Brien said: "I sat up in the public gallery, I was looking down at the taoiseach (Irish prime minister) and the minister for justice, and [thought]: 'What are you going to do, what are you going to do? I'm right here'.

"I'm going to keep doing that and they're going to feel the pressure."

Commenting on the standing ovation she received in the Dáil, Ms O'Brien added: "I was honoured, it was incredible, however, you know, your applauses are amazing, but let's use those applauses and let's actually do something and do your job."

Protesters gather outside Leinster House in Dublin, in solidarity with Natasha O'Brien who was attacked by Cathal Crotty
Protestors with signs gathered outside Leinster House [PA Media]

Earlier, Taoiseach Simon Harris said he was angry at how the Irish Defence Forces had handled the case.

The Irish Defence Forces started internal proceedings in relation to Crotty after the court case ended on Friday, but the taoiseach questioned the wait.

"There are people in the defence forces who clearly knew this was happening, why did they do nothing?

"These are very serious questions and as taoiseach I am not satisfied in relation to this."

Mr Harris questioned whether the defence forces would be carrying out their review if "there was not so much public interest" in the case.

"I am really angry about it because we are now seeing a flurry of activity but that flurry of activity is only coming about because of the bravery of Natasha O'Brien and I want to know how many other people are hiding with convictions in relation to domestic, sexual or gender-based violence."

Simon Harris
Taoiseach Simon Harris said he is not satisfied with how the Irish Defence Forces have handled the Cathal Crotty case [PA Media]

He added there can be no "hiding place" in the defence forces for people who have been convicted of these types of crimes.

Mr Harris also praised the victim, saying Ms O'Brien has "shone a very serious light in relation to the defence forces" and that "it raises very grave and serious questions".

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Irish Defence Forces said it could not act until due process had been completed in court.

"It is then a matter for the relevant defence forces authorities in accordance with military regulations.

"In the cases referred to the media, the defence forces can confirm that these proceedings have commenced."

They said the defence forces "unequivocally condemns any actions by serving personnel that are contrary to military regulations or that do not reflect out values".

"Any conviction in a civilian court has implications for the retention and service of members of the defence forces, as stipulated in military regulations," they added.

The taoiseach said he wants to meet Ms O'Brien after any further legal proceedings have concluded.