Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

The 7th International Conference on Workplace Bullying and Harassment, University of Glamorgan, Cardiff, Wales, June 2010


From 1996 to 2000, the author of this paper – then a Captain serving in the Irish Army - conducted doctoral research into the status and roles assigned female personnel in the Irish Defence Forces – Army, Navy and Air Corps. An unanticipated outcome of this equality audit of the Irish Defence Forces was the revelation of the widespread bullying, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape of female soldiers by male colleagues. As a result of conducting this feminist research, the author was ostracised by his military colleagues and suffered from a campaign of vilification in the private and public domain with serious personal and professional consequences. The author’s PhD thesis was lodged to the library of Dublin City University in November 2000 in accordance with academic regulations. It was later accessed by a number of journalists. By September of 2001 there was saturation coverage of the findings of the research in the Irish print and electronic media. The Irish military authorities reacted by suggesting that the research and its findings had been fabricated by the author. It was also alleged inter alia that the author had conducted the research covertly and that the author had concealed the ‘fabricated’ findings from the military authorities. In October of 2001 the Irish Minister for Defence launched an independent enquiry into the affair. The Department of Defence ‘Study Review Group’ investigated the findings of the doctoral thesis and reported in the Spring of 2003. It fully vindicated the findings of the author’s original doctoral research. In the interim, further defamatory allegations about the author – made by the military authorities – were circulated to Irish security correspondents and opinion writers. The author sought legal advice and commenced legal proceedings for libel against the Irish Minister for Defence and the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces. The case, Tom Clonan Vs The Minister for Defence, Ireland and The Attorney General was heard in court in Dublin on the 30th of May 2005. The author settled the case with his former employers and received a payment from the Irish Department of Defence. In September of 2007, Ireland’s national radio channel, RTE Radio 1 broadcast the story of the author’s research journey as part of a radio series on institutional ‘whistleblowers’. - In summary, this paper focuses on a number of key issues raised by the conduct of insider research in secretive and sensitive workplace settings – namely the potential for unanticipated negative professional and personal consequences for ‘non traditional’ workplace researchers and study participants. The author argues that these issues are not addressed sufficiently – and in most cases not described at all - in the academic literature on research methodology. The paper presents the author’s own experience as an insider researcher within the Irish military as a short case study of the ‘aftermath of insider research’ within the organisational setting of the Irish Defence Forces. The paper then summarises the main methodological challenges posed by the research and identifies areas within the literature on research methodology that might be expanded to take account of such challenges.