Wednesday 13 December 2017

Skills honed on the trail of Dail intrigue

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE late Taoiseach Charles Haughey's press guru PJ Mara dubbed her 'Blonde Ambition' during her years on the trail of intrigue as a political reporter in Leinster House.

Now Emily O'Reilly's ambition has landed her one of the top jobs in Europe.

Her role as European Ombudsman will allow her to use her well-honed skills as an investigator, probing the agencies that make up the gigantic EU machine.

Originally from Tullamore, Co Offaly, Ms O'Reilly studied at UCD and Trinity before beginning her career in journalism in the 1980s.

Primarily reporting on politics, she worked for daily and Sunday newspapers, and met her husband Stephen Ryan while working at the 'Sunday Tribune'. The couple have five children.

Ms O'Reilly wrote three books, including one on the 1990 presidential election and another on murdered crime reporter Veronica Guerin.

Her decade-long tenure as Ombudsman was marked by frequent clashes with the government.

On her appointment in 2003 she immediately began criticising the government over plans to introduce fees for freedom of information requests.


She investigated the right to nursing home care in Ireland and found that the state failed to meet its obligations for over four decades.

She also examined the 'Lost at Sea' compensation scheme after a complaint by the family of Francie Byrne, who died along with his son Jimmy in a fishing tragedy in 1981.

His widow was denied a grant and Ms O'Reilly found the scheme was unfairly administered, recommending that the family receive €245,000.

She was critical of the then-Fianna Fail-led government for rejecting her report in 2010.

Ms O'Reilly recently weighed in on the row surrounding the current government's plan to end disability allowances because they contravened the Equal Status Act, saying the plans were a "bolt out of the blue".

As Ombudsman, she had found that the allowances were being operated illegally and had recommended they be brought in line with the law rather than scrapped.

Irish Independent

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