Ombudsman for the Defence Forces Releases Fifth Annual Report

21 June 2011

The moratorium on public sector recruitment has made it increasingly difficult for redress to be offered to members of the Defence Forces whose cases have involved maladministration of promotion or selection processes.

That’s according to the 2010 annual report of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF), which was published today (21.06.11).

Of the 116 cases dealt with by the ODF last year, 37 related to complaints arising out of selection or promotion procedures. Such cases represented a large category of complaints, which is consistent with trends from previous years. The remainder of complaints to the ODF comprised alleged inappropriate behaviour / bullying (28 cases); career-related administrative process (14 cases); non-selection for career courses (11 cases); maladministration (9 cases); and non-selection for overseas service (6 cases).

According to the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, Paulyn Marrinan Quinn, “Many cases referred to my Office concerned matters to do with promotion and selection procedural fairness and transparency. To this end, when a case is upheld, the most appropriate redress is often another promotion competition; an opportunity to serve on an overseas mission or a chance to acquire a place on a career course. However, given the impact of the downturn, fewer remedies of this nature can become effective.

“That said, my Office has received positive feedback from many complainants who indicated that, despite not securing an immediate redress for themselves, they were pleased – at least – to find that their appeal was upheld, that they were vindicated in having pursued their grievance and that other members would benefit from reform of the processes. This, in my view, represents a sense of realism and good faith among members of the Defence Forces and I must acknowledge their patience and endurance as they have awaited the outcomes of their cases.”

Out of the cases investigated by the Ombudsman in 2010, she issued 48 Final Reports to the Minister for Defence. Of the Final Reports issued by the Ombudsman, she had upheld 38 per cent of cases concerned.

In addition to dealing with cases through the investigative process, some cases were resolved by an early response from the Defence Forces to the Ombudsman’s preliminary report or intervention and mediation as a process was utilised.

According to Ms Marrinan Quinn, “In these particular cases, I was very pleased with the level of cooperation that I received from all parties involved. To my mind, this reflects the willingness and commitment evident within the Defence Forces to enhancing human resource and personnel practices. I remain of the view that there is valuable potential in exploring early intervention or facilitative mediation in appropriate inter-personal matters.”

In addition to the ongoing case-work of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, a ‘Case Digest Report System’ was developed in 2010, which documents the cases and the decisions made in respect of the issues.

According to Paulyn Marrinan Quinn, “In addition to the fact that it is not adversarial in its approach, one of the advantages of the Ombudsman concept is that it is not strictly bound by precedent. However, since the establishment of the ODF in 2005, its jurisprudence and ethos has emerged and, while every case is dealt with on its own merits, a degree of consistency is desirable. This bespoke case report system enables issues and outcomes to be cross-referenced and brings an enhanced efficiency to my Office.”

In 2010, the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces contributed significantly, on an international level, to the development of best practice in the areas of ombudsman institutions for armed forces, civilian oversight of military administrative matters, and the protection of human rights of soldiers as ‘Citizens in Uniform’. The Ombudsman worked on the Expert Group with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) / Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Geneva-based Centre for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) to produce the first handbook on ‘Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Armed Forces Personnel’ and was invited to contribute to further OSCE initiatives. In addition, she authored a chapter on the subject of ‘Human Rights and Civil-Military Relations’ for a publication by the National Office of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law at the Argentinian Ministry for Defence.

Also in 2010, Ms Marrinan Quinn addressed a conference hosted by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in London on the subject of the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution processes (ADRs), such as mediation in workplace and interpersonal disputes.

“Despite a sense, from some quarters, that Ireland’s reputation has been diminished internationally, I believe that our record and capacity in the areas of conflict resolution and conflict transformation is of huge interest to countries around the world that are looking for conciliation processes and democratic military oversight models. Ireland is – in my experience – a trusted and respected reference point for states that are seeking to develop best practices in these areas.”

In her annual report, Paulyn Marrinan Quinn paid tribute to the former Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Dermot Earley, who passed away in 2010. She said that he was a powerful force for positive change and modernisation within the Defence Forces and was one of the champions of the ODF. “It was a huge privilege and a defining experience to have witnessed, at close hand, his way with people and his inspiring prowess in leadership. He set a trail to be followed.”

Today’s launch was also addressed by Dr. Eileen Doyle, who offered an assessment of the work of the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces since its inception. Dr. Doyle was author of the 2002 ‘Doyle Report’, which examined harassment, workplace bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment in the Defence Forces. She subsequently chaired and authored the reports of the Independent Monitoring Groups (2004 and 2008).

ODF 2010 Annual Report Highlights

ODF 2010 Annual Report Full Report and Audio Files

Photo of Launch