Defence Forces watchdog 'surprised' by cut in hours
THE ombudsman for the Defence Forces last night expressed her surprise at the decision to downgrade her office to a part-time post.
The move -- which changes the position to a three-day-week job with a salary of €62,596 -- has also stunned the troops, who were already reeling this week from the likely impact of the reorganisation of the Army.
Barrister Paulyn Marrinan Quinn has held the position since it was created six years ago but will now have to re-apply for her old job.
The office has been hailed as a huge success at home and overseas since it was set up to deal with the grievances and complaints of military personnel.
It was embraced by the military leadership and the representative associations.
General secretary of Pdforra, which represents soldiers, sailors and Air Corps personnel, Gerry Rooney, admitted last night he was shocked at the decision by Defence Minister Alan Shatter to cut the post's hours from 40 to 25.
He said his members were very concerned at the knock-on effects of downgrading the office and pointed out that complaints often took a long time to process through the system.
"We intend to raise this decision with the Department of Defence as soon as we can and make known our views. It takes time for complaints and issues, like redress of wrongs, to be sorted out and this will not help," said Mr Rooney.
Senior counsel Ms Marrinan Quinn, whose current contract is due to expire in September, told the Irish Independent last night that she was surprised at the decision but did not want to comment further.
Ironically, she is due to fly to Geneva next week to address a seminar at the Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces on the establishment of a military ombudsman office in other countries.
Last year she briefed a South African delegation, led by a lieutenant general, on how to set up a similar office in their country.
Cost savings from the move are expected to be relatively small but there are fears the move could halt the huge strides that have been made in introducing reform and sorting out recurring systemic failings over the past few years.
The department said last night that Ms Marrinan Quinn was entitled to apply for the position again.
"She is currently filling the post on a full-time basis with an annual salary of €104,327. The post has now been advertised on a part-time, three-day week basis with a salary of €62,596. The successful applicant can expect to receive this salary."
The department argued that a large number of the administrative and systemic issues identified by the current ombudsman had been addressed and had contributed to improvements in procedures, practices and policies within the Defence Forces.
An increase in the number of complaints resolved by the Defence Forces' own process without the need for referral to the ombudsman had also been noted.
As a result of those developments, it was decided to advertise the post on a three- day-a-week basis, the department added.