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Ombudsman Report.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Thursday - 11 March 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Questions (10)

Dinny McGinley

Question:

10 Deputy Dinny McGinley asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the contact he has had with the Office of the Ombudsman since her report on lost at sea was laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11959/10]

View answer

Oral answers (10 contributions) (Question to Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The Ombudsman laid her special report before the Houses of the Oireachtas on Monday, 14 December. Since then, the Ombudsman's special report on the lost at sea scheme of 2001 has been the subject of statements in this House and in Seanad Éireann. I have had no contact with the Office of the Ombudsman about this matter since her special report was published. My position in this matter was set out in detail in the statements made to this House and to Seanad Éireann.

Is the Minister of State aware of the annoyance of the Ombudsman as conveyed by her address to the IPA last Monday?

Deputy McGinley should not bring constitutional officers into the debate. Reference is fine but we should not ascribe views to any constitutional officeholder who is not a Member of the House.

Does the Minister of State agree that the manner in which the Government has dealt with this matter goes to the heart of the relevance of the Ombudsman? The way the Government has treated this report questions the integrity and competence of the Ombudsman. The ombudsman in the UK suggested that if a government treats a report like that it must be because the ombudsman has gone bonkers. With due respect to the Ombudsman, that has certainly not happened. That the report is treated in this way is almost unprecedented. Does the Minister of State agree the way this report was obstructed at every level by the Government is the greatest example of stonewalling since Stonewall Jackson? Are we to take it that the report will be assigned to the dustbin and we will hear no more about it? Will the Minister of State not do the decent thing and implement the recommendations proposed by the Ombudsman in the report for the benefit of the Byrne family, who have suffered so much? I ask the Government to implement the report or at least allow it to go to the committee so that we can examine it line by line and find out if there was a cover-up and whether the Government is trying to cover someone's tracks.

In support of Deputy McGinley's point, will the Government extend an invitation as per the Labour Party request to facilitate the Ombudsman in one of the committees to allow her to present the findings in her report?

Deputy Sargent may have something to add.

The Deputy should not invite other Deputies into the debate.

I assure Members there is no question about the competence and integrity of the Ombudsman. I have the height of regard for the office and the incumbent. I have also read the speech to the IPA on Monday, to which Deputy McGinley referred. I disagree with his claim that the report was obstructed. Every item of information sought by the Ombudsman was supplied by the two or three Departments with responsibility at different times.

The Minister of State does not agree with the findings.

I am obliged to operate within legislation. It was pointed out particularly eloquently in the other House that it is not clear, as the legislation is drafted, what is to happen when a report is referred to the Oireachtas. That is a weakness in the legislation. It is not open to me on behalf of anyone, to extend an invitation to anybody to any committee.

Written Answers follow Adjournment Debate.

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