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Paulyn Marrinan Quinn S.C. Ombudsman for the Defence Forces

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Paulyn Marrinan Quinn S.C. Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. Presentation to Athlone. 18 th October 2010. “ The Case for an Ombudsman in providing resolution of disputes ”. The Role of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces

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Paulyn Marrinan Quinn S.C.Ombudsman for the Defence Forces

Presentation to

Athlone. 18th October 2010

“The Case for an Ombudsman in providing resolution of disputes”


The Role of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces

Appointed by the President of Ireland, the Ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints by members and former members of the Defence Forces.

“The Ombudsman shall be independent in the performance of her functions….”

Ombudsman (Defence Forces) Act 2004.

The Ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints about actions taken by:
  • Another serving member of the Defence Forces;
  • A former member of the Defence Forces who was serving at the time of the action;
  • A Civil Servant.

Where that alleged action has, or may have, adversely affected the Complainant.

The Ombudsman is empowered to investigate complaints in respect of actions taken by: -
  • Serving members of the Defence Forces
  • Retired members of the Defence Forces
  • Serving Members of the Reserve Defence Forces
  • Retired members of the Reserve Defence Forces
The Ombudsman may investigate a complaint about an action that may have been: -
  • Taken without proper authority;
  • Taken on a relevant grounds;
  • The result of negligence or carelessness;
  • Based on wrong or incomplete information;
  • Improperly discriminatory;
  • Contrary to fair or sound administration.
The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF) provides an independent, objective and accessible means of redress for members and former members of the Defence Forces.

The ODF was established in a response to a clear demand among members of the Defence Forces for a transparent and fair oversight and appeal from the Military Redress Procedure which was independent of the Defence Forces Chain of Command, the Departmental secretariat and the Minister for Defence.

In 2002 the Irish Government responded to the call for an independent Office of Redress. Legislation which was unanimously supported by all political parties was enacted into law in 2005.

On 1 September 2005 Paulyn Marrinan Quinn S.C. was appointed Ombudsman for the Defence Forces and her Office became operational from 1 December of that year.

Since the establishment of ODF to the end of 2009, in addition to over 300 contacts with the Office, the Ombudsman has dealt with more than 300 individual cases and has also provided a significant catalyst for reform of administrative processes within the Defence Forces.

Within the first six months of operation of the ODF, the Defence Forces introduced New Interim Selection Procedures for Overseas Service and Career Courses. This reform, on foot of recommendations contained in the first Adjudications issued by the ODF, had immediate effect.

The ODF aimed to gain the trust and confidence of Defence Force personnel of all ranks. In 2007, its second year of operation, more than 20% of cases eligible for investigation came from the rank of Lieutenant or higher. 2007 saw the first cases referred by members of the Naval Service and the Air Corps.
One of the reasons for the establishment of the ODF was a recognition that people who choose to serve their country on often dangerous and life threatening duties deserve to have their rights respected in the work place, regardless of the unique circumstances of military service. ODF strives to achieve that goal in a domestic context.

The Ombudsman was invited to become a member of the Expert Group set-up by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE/ODHIR) who in conjunction with Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) established to draw up a handbook on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms for members of Armed Forces.

This project resulted in the launch, in May 2008 of the Handbook at which the Ombudsman delivered the key note address.

The work of the ODF is guided by the principles of Ombudsmanship: -
  • Fairness;
  • Impartiality;
  • Independence; and
  • Accountability.

The objective is to have a positive and beneficial effect on the men and women who serve or have served their country in the Defence Forces.

The Ombudsman has wide powers of investigation and inspection in the exercise of her function with a right of access to documents and installations as required.

The Ombudsman issues her findings and recommendations to the Minister for Defence in her Final Report.


Preliminary examination – jurisdictional issues considered

Serving member

Research of issues by ODF

Defence Forces

Redress of Wrongs (RoW) Process

ODF issues Preliminary View Report: four weeks for replies, clarifications and further information


Complainant not satisfied

No decision after 28 days – Complainant may refer matter to ODF

Responses and further information considered by ODF

ODF issues Final Report to Complainant, Chief of Staff and Minister

Appeal notified and file sent by Chief of Staff to ODF

Minister’s responds to Final Report

Complaint referred directly to ODF and file requested from Chief of Staff

Minister declines to accept recommendations

Minister accepts recommendations

Former member or serving member with a complaint against a civil servant

ODF can issue Special Report

ODF communicates outcome to Complainant

Lifecycle of a Complaint


Strong Powers

Independence in role


Recommendations dependant on Ministerial acceptance.

Time delays

Lack of resources


Independent & impartial oversight and adjudication

Systemic improvements



Unrealistic expectations


Launch of the Second Annual Report (2008)

Irish Troops serving with EU Force Chad/Central African Republic

International Conference of Military Ombudsman Institutions

Further information including Annual Reports available at the ODF website