Thursday 18 January 2018

Garda Ombudsman quits for new role in Britain

Simon O’Brien
Simon O’Brien

The chairman of the Garda Ombudsman has announced his intention to resign at the end of the month.

Simon O’Brien, who was in the job for over three years ago, has been appointed the next chief executive of the Pensions Ombudsman Service for the UK.

Mr O’Brien has informed President Michael D Higgins and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald about his move from the controversial office of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC).

GSOC came under the spotlight when it claimed a security sweep by a UK surveillance firm it hired had found evidence the agency was being bugged and that communications into and out of its offices in Dublin were being electronically monitored.

The claims prompted a state inquiry led by retired High Court Judge John Cooke.

Read more: Ombudsman probe unable to find source of ‘bugging’ leak

He found no evidence to support the concerns of the commission and criticised GSOC for launching an investigation in the first place. GSOC says the increase in calls received is a result of an "increased level of public awareness".

Mr O'Brien said he was moving back to the UK to his family.

In recent months he dismissed several calls for his resignation and that of the two other commissioners, Kieran FitzGerald and Carmel Foley, made by former minister Alan Shatter and the Dublin South Central branch of the rank-and-file Garda Representative Association.

Read more: Alan Shatter calls for GSOC bosses to resign

“I have been in Ireland for five years in two posts,” he said in a short statement.

“This is a significant opportunity and I am looking forward to the new challenge. The new post will bring me back home to be with my wife and young family in London.”

GSOC received 1,725 complaints by members of the public between January and September last year, up 14pc on 2013 figures.

The number of calls made to the agency's lo-call number have also increased by almost a quarter with 5,421 calls logged so far this year, compared to 4,405 call last year.

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