Outgoing Ombudsman accuses Coalition of ‘rationing by stealth’

Emily O’Reilly has criticised the Government for using her office as ‘cover’

Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has criticised the Government for using her office as “cover” for cutting funding schemes for vulnerable people.

In an interview ahead of her departure from office, Ms O’Reilly said her concerns about unfair or inconsistent allocation of benefits and services were being used to effect “rationing by stealth”.

She pointed to a proposal to suspend issuing new long-term illness cards to children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and the axing of the mobility allowance – both of which followed criticism on equity and discrimination grounds from the Ombudsman’s Office – as evidence of a trend.

"What people are doing now is applying the regulations very strictly. It is a form of rationing. What disturbs me is that the Ombudsman's Office is being used as cover to do this," Ms O'Reilly told The Irish Times.

She publishes her final annual report today before taking up her new post as European Ombudsman in Strasbourg next week.

While governments had by and large “tolerated” her, Ms O’Reilly recalled that one former minister had personally contacted her office to complain.

“I do remember there was somebody, who was a former member of a government, who rang the office very crossly and said, ‘Who the f*** does she think she is? Does she think she is running the country?’”