I thank most sincerely all the Deputies from various sides of the House who contributed so thoughtfully and constructively to the debate on the Bill. All the contributions made were welcome and indicated Deputies had formulated their contributions to the debate with considerable thought and reflection.
As I stated on Second Stage and in addressing individual amendments on Committee Stage, I was pleased to have the opportunity to bring forward two important and fundamental ministerial amendments to the published legislation to accommodate specific concerns raised by PDFORRA. Both amendments secured the support of the House. The first widens the potential remit of the new Defence Forces Ombudsman. This amendment carefully redefines the term "military operations" to greatly limit the definition of the term in the Bill. The amended definition greatly restricts the application of the term "military operation" as a basis for the possible exclusion of the ombudsman from investigating a complaint.
The second significant amendment deals with those unusual circumstances where the ombudsman cannot become involved in the investigation of certain types of complaint, a limited number of which specific statutory exclusions are provided for in the legislation. The second amendment ensures that, in such circumstances, the complainant will retain the present right to refer the complaint to the Minister when internal military channels of appeal have been fully utilised up to and including the Chief of Staff. It has always been the intention to maximise the operational remit of the new Defence Forces Ombudsman to the greatest degree possible. It has always been my view that any limitations which will impose upon the new ombudsman must be materially justifiable in terms of essential criteria for military command and control, operating military effectiveness in the field and security.
Deputy McGinley and Deputy Sherlock, who was represented by Deputy Wall, also submitted a number of amendments on Committee Stage and I thank these Deputies for their attention to and interest in the legislation. However, in the event, I was unable to accommodate any of the amendments bar one.
The objective observer would agree that the Bill, as amended, has secured the proper balance and I am gratified that all the various amendments which I brought forward were so readily accepted by the House. I believe that the Bill, as amended, will provide an excellent statutory foundation for the operation of the new Defence Forces Ombudsman in future. I have every confidence that the establishment of the new office of the Defence Forces Ombudsman will prove to be an important milestone in the history of the Defence Forces. This significant new statutory office will be one major factor among others in ensuring a further development and maintenance of a modern contemporary working environment in the Defence Forces.
In bringing this legislation forward, I have been impressed to note that all the interested parties have acknowledged and agreed the need to preserve and maintain the unique disciplined environment of military life. This aspect of discipline has always been an essential requirement for meeting the challenges and responsibilities of military life. Moreover, these challenges and responsibilities must sometimes be faced under extremely dangerous circumstances.
I thank Deputies, in particular Deputy Durkan and his colleagues, for constructive and supportive engagement with the Bill in the course of its passage through the House. I thank my colleagues in the Department of Defence who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the legislation would be well developed and stand the test of time.