Ombudsman for the Defence Forces

Annual Report 2009 Highlights

ODF 2009 Annual Report Full Report

Available as Audio files

ODF 2009 Annual Report Highlights

Due to the high number of International visitors to our website we have published the highlights of our 2009 Annual Report in French, German and Spanish.

Ombudsman pour les forces de Défense Rapport annuel 2009 Points principaux ODF 2009 Annual Report Highlights
Ombudsinstitution für die Streitkräfte Jahresbericht 2009 Höhepunkte ODF 2009 Annual Report Highlights
Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF, Defensor del Pueblo de las Fuerzas de Defensa) Informe anual 2009 Puntos destacados ODF 2009 Annual Report Highlights

Ombudsman for the Defence Forces
Launches 4th Annual Report June 2010

Ombudsman pour les forces de Défense Rapport annuel 2009 Points principaux Ombudsinstitution für die Streitkräfte Jahresbericht 2009 Höhepunkte Ombudsman for the Defence Forces (ODF, Defensor del Pueblo de las Fuerzas de Defensa) Informe anual 2009 Puntos destacados

The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces launched her 2009 Annual Report in which she included a review of the four years of operation of the Office since its establishment on 1 December 2005. The review assesses how the presence of the Office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces has contributed to positive change and more transparent administrative procedures for members of the Irish Defence Forces.

Presenting her fourth Annual Report the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, Paulyn Marrinan-Quinn S.C. reported on the work of her Office for 2009. Ms. Marrinan-Quinn listed some of the highlights as:

  • On-going administrative changes within the Defence Forces as a result of the Ombudsman's recommendations were clearly evident.
  • Following the Ombudsman's recommendations, the Chief of Staff has directed that all Defence Force members now have a right to view information contained on their personal files.
  • As a result of observations and findings made in the Ombudsman's examination of cases, the Chief of Staff agreed to instigate a review of the present system of recording personal appraisal reports for enlisted personnel and non-commissioned Officers.
  • As a result of the Ombudsman's findings and recommendations in her Adjudications of individual cases,, the Minister for Defence and the Defence Forces have undertaken to review procedures used by Promotion and Selection Boards and have undertaken to consider the benefits of adopting a points table or marking matrix, so that all candidates may have an objective measure of their rating..
  • Ombudsman upheld 74% of Complaints referred to her.
  • The Ombudsman conducted an audit of the adoption and implementation of recommendations made by her on practices and procedures in the Defence Forces since the inception of her Office.
  • A review of internal financial controls in the Office of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was satisfactorily completed.
  • The Ombudsman was invited to give an address at the inaugural conference for Military Ombudsman Institutions in Berlin, an event convened by the German Parliamentary Commissioner for the Armed Forces.
  • Ombudsman gave an address to an international audience on the 'Train the Trainers Course' at the United Nations Training School Ireland (UNTSI), at the Defence Forces Training Centre, Curragh Camp. The address focused on the protection of human rights, fundamental freedoms and the welfare of Military Personnel and was informed by the Ombudsman's experience as a member of the Expert Group convened by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe-Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE-ODIHR) and the Geneva-based Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF).
  • The Ombudsman for the Defence Forces liaised during the year with the Pensions Ombudsman, Mr. Paul Kenny, in endeavours to establish swiftly whether there was a remedy available for Complainants in military pension-related disputes that the ODF is excluded from investigating.

In 2009 the Office had to deal with its second highest case-load, together with a number of other institutional challenges. At all times, the ODF's primary focus was on the welfare of members of the Defence Forces. The Ombudsman stated that she wished to publicly express her recognition of the ongoing co-operation of the Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Dermot Earley, his Generals and the Military Command and Staff of the Irish Defence Forces during 2009.

The work of an Ombudsman often reaches beyond the specific findings and recommendations in an individual case. Upon launching her 2009 Annual Report, the Ombudsman, Paulyn Marrinan Quinn, said:
"I have discovered that a recurring theme, in exchanges with colleagues from abroad about the impact of an Office of Military Ombudsman Institution, is the cultural change that the existence of an independent impartial Office charged with oversight and meaningful powers of investigation can produce."

The statistics included in this Annual Report merely provide a snapshot of the activity of the Office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces during 2009. For the second year in a row more than a hundred cases received detailed consideration by the Ombudsman in more than thirty Final Reports issued.

"These statistics confirm that, after four years of operation my Office now plays a significant supporting role in the resolution of grievances in the Defence Forces., I believe it is fair to say that the Office of the Ombudsman has won the trust of members and the Military Authorities. It is an essential element of Ombudsmanship that those referring their complaints to an Ombudsman feel safe and confident that their case is being given the benefit of an independent and impartial Adjudication," she said.

Whereas there has been a slight reduction in the number of Redress of Wrongs applications made by members of the Defence Forces in 2009, it is widely recognised that the impact and value-for-money provided by an Ombudsman cannot just be judged by statistical through- put over a defined time-span. The changes in practices, policy, and culture within an organisation that follow on from the very presence of the independent oversight provided by an Ombudsman have a long-term value that goes beyond the impact that can be described in an Annual Report based on one calendar year.

ODF recommendations arising out of cases in 2009 again prove to be the catalyst for change within the Defence Forces. For instance, in 2009, as in the previous three years, a number of recommendations about systemic matters made by ODF in Final Reports were accepted by the Minister for Defence and the Military Authorities. The changes flowing from these recommendations will not only address the grievance in the individual case but will also ensure that other members of the Defence Forces will not encounter bad practices or good practices poorly applied in the future.

The Ombudsman stated that she was including in this Annual Report an image of what she describes as the 'Lifecycle of a Complaint' from which the route travelled by a Complaint can be seen from the time it enters the Military Redress of Wrongs (RoW) Process.
Under the legislation establishing the ODF, one of the significant strengths is that the Ombudsman must- be formally notified by the Defence Forces of every complaint made by a member of the Defence Forces. This enables the Office of the Ombudsman to track and monitor the progress of the Complaint while it is being dealt with through the internal military Redress of Wrongs. Procedure and assess the fair and timely administration of those internal processes.

"In my Annual Report, I have included a selection of Case Studies which represent a cross- section of cases which I Adjudicated over the year. Permission to use these selected cases was obtained from the people who referred their cases to me. Their assistance is greatly appreciated. As far as possible, some details related to the cases have been deleted to maintain the anonymity."

Ms. Marrinan Quinn said: "I hope that these case summaries will provide an insight into the human stories behind the Complaints which I considered in 2009. Affecting change and the approach to handling interpersonal disputes or grievances arising within a workplace, particularly those with a distinct culture, requires leaders with vision, foresight, and moral courage. Without this commitment to change in the long-term interest of an organisation little would ever change for the better."

The Ombudsman is keen to attribute a significant part of the progress of the work of the ODF to the leadership of the Irish Defence Forces. "Leadership is fundamental to meaningful institutional change and reform. Since I was first appointed as Ombudsman for the Defence Forces in September 2005: I have experienced an open- mindedness and a willingness to engage with positive change from the two Chiefs of Staff who have served in that role since the inception of my Office. Jim Sreenan, Lt. Gen. Retired and Lt. Gen. Dermot Earley have contributed immensely by supporting the objectives of the Office of ODF. Both Chiefs of Staff have demonstrated an over-riding concern with the well- being and fair treatment of those who serve our Country. They have recognised the long-term benefits that flow from reform of practices that give rise to grievances and perceptions of unfairness. Indeed it has been enlightening to witness such leadership in action over the critical phase of the 'start-up years of the Office of the ODF."

"The decision to establish a statutory independent Ombudsman for the Defence Forces was a major and timely development and places Ireland in the fore-front in this area of work. The work of my Office is primarily, guided by the founding principles of Ombudmanship: fairness, impartiality, independence, and accountability."

"Since being appointed Ombudsman for the Defence Forces in September 2005, I have endeavoured to spend as much time as possible meeting members of the Defence Forces of all ranks and their Representative Organisations. Not only is this a vital element in promoting awareness and understanding of the role and remit of my Office but it also affords me the opportunity to receive vital feedback from those stakeholders," said Ms Marrinan Quinn.
The Ombudsman is pleased to announce that this year there is an audio file of her Annual Report on the website www.odf.ie .