Debate over Defence Forces Ombudsman
The Department of Defence has rejected criticism of the decision to make the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces a part-time post.
The department said the office was now well established and a number of administrative and systemic issues identified by the outgoing ombudsman had been addressed.
“This has contributed to improvements in procedures and policies within the Defence Forces,” it added.
Minister for Defence Alan Shatter recently announced the appoinment of Patrick Anthony McCourt, a former military judge, to the post on a part-time basis following an open competition. He replaced Paulyn Marrinan Quinn SC, who was a full-time ombudsman for seven years until her term of office expired in September.
Fianna Fáil defence spokesman Seán Ó Fearghail said yesterday the Minister seemed to have taken the decision because of the reduction in the number of cases for one year only.
He said that between 2008 and 2010 there was an average of about 112 cases considered by the ombudsman, but that dropped quite dramatically from 116 in 2010 to 32 in 2011.
“While this reduction is welcome, I feel the Minister has not adequately explained it or taken account of the fact that this may increase again, causing significant pressure on the new ombudsman, who will now only operate three days a week,” Mr Ó Fearghail added.
Gerry Rooney, general secretary of PDforra, which represents members of the Defence Forces, said the change would mean less resolve to sort out problems at lower levels. “We see no justification for this,” he said.