Ombudsman for Children calls for reversal of recession-era downgrade of his role

Office of watchdog for children’s interests was bumped down Civil Service salary scale from a maximum of €178,000 to up to €130,000

The Ombudsman for Children has written to the Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman asking for his “intervention” in reversing a post-recession cutback in his role from assistant secretary general level to principal officer higher.

Dr Niall Muldoon wrote to Mr O’Gorman two months ago stating that he saw the reversal of the downgrade as being “in the best interest of children”.

In the letter dated November 14th, Dr Muldoon said the role of Ombudsman for Children was downgraded from assistant secretary general to principal officer level in 2015 as part of Fempi, the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2009.

“I am writing to you now to seek the reversal of that downgrade, in line with the reversal of all other Fempi cutbacks across the civil and public service,” Dr Muldoon said. “I see this as being in the best interest of children.”


According to Fórsa’s Civil Service salary scale, an assistant secretary’s salary ranges from €156,472 to €178,995 while a higher principal officer’s salary is €106,187-€130,951.

Dr Muldoon said in the letter, which was released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, that he had been engaged in long-term discussions with the Department of Children regarding the repositioning of the role of Ombudsman for Children.

“I understood the measures taken during a time of economic crisis in 2015, via Fempi, were set out on a legal basis and were always intended to be temporary,” Dr Muldoon said. “Indeed, at this point, I believe that all of the Fempi cutbacks have now been reversed across the Civil Service. However, I have been seeking the reversal of the decision to downgrade this role since 2021 and it has still not happened.”

Dr Muldoon also said he had engaged with two secretary generals in the department who had both been “extremely supportive” of the argument to return the post to the level of assistant secretary.

However, he said the Department of Public Expenditure had advised that the Senior Posts Remuneration Committee would be established and direct on remuneration arrangements for senior posts in the public service and chief executives of commercial State bodies.

Dr Muldoon said it was his contention that “this is not about the ‘remuneration of senior posts” but instead about the “closing off of a process set in motion through Fempi”.

Dr Muldoon added that he was asking the Minister to “step in and make that case” to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

He said since 2015 the office of the Ombudsman for Children had increased its activity levels and work for children “enormously” and there had been a rise in “innovative and important investigations and reports” published.

Concluding his correspondence, Dr Muldoon noted he was in his second and final term as Ombudsman for Children and was committed to “doing everything in my power to ensure that the office is in the strongest position possible to work for the rights of all the children in Ireland”.

A spokeswoman for the Ombudsman for Children said Mr O’Gorman had responded and acknowledged that Fempi legislation was intended to be temporary.

The Department for Children said Mr O’Gorman had written to the Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe regarding the issue.

It added that the Ombudsman for Children’s office was also in receipt of a director’s allowance.

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Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times