Emily O'Reilly to be appointed as State's next Ombudsman

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The senior journalist Ms Emily O'Reilly is to become the State's next Ombudsman and Information Commissioner, replacing Mr Kevin Murphy who is to retire from June 1st.

The Cabinet decision yesterday to put forward Ms O'Reilly was made after a recommendation by the Minister for Finance, Mr McCreevy. The Government will now propose her name to the Dáil and Seanad for approval, following which the President will be asked to appoint her. The appointment will be for a six-year renewable term.

Mr Murphy announced yesterday that he will step down on June 1st, emphasising that his decision was taken before the recent controversy over the Government's plans to amend the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr Murphy recently defended himself against criticism from the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, who claimed that as Information Commissioner, Mr Murphy had overstepped his powers in publishing a commentary of the sections of the Act the Government now proposes to amend. Ms O'Reilly, a political columnist with the Sunday Times, has been Political Correspondent of the Irish Press, Political Editor of the Sunday Business Post, Northern Editor of the Sunday Tribune, Editor of Magill magazine and a broadcaster with RTÉ and Today FM. She has also written three books. She said yesterday that while the office to which she is expected to be appointed is called that of Ombudsman, "I will be an ombudswoman but will have no difficulty in being referred to as either". She did not know whether the title could be changed to reflect the gender of the appointee, but pointed out that there were ombudswomen in other countries.

Mr Murphy has been Ombudsman since 1994, when he succeeded the first Ombudsman, Mr Michael Mills. He added the post of Information Commissioner in 1998 following the passage of the Freedom of Information Act.

He said yesterday he had decided to retire last year when he turned 65. However, he stayed on to serve as an ex-officio member of the Referendum Commission during the Nice Treaty campaign, and to complete a special report on the refusal of the Revenue Commissioners to accept a recommendation of his about paying interest and compensation to certain taxpayers who had been taxed too much.

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