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Children need and deserve a distinct and independent Ombudsman for Children


16/07/2009

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office understands that the report of An Bord Snip Nua (the Special Group on Public Service Numbers and Expenditure Programmes) contains a proposal to merge the Ombudsman for Children’s Office with other organisations and to subsume this collective within the Office of the Ombudsman.

Such a move would effectively abolish the distinct and independent nature of the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is firmly against this proposal and wishes to put on record why such a move would be wrong.

We must learn the lessons from the Report of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan Report). The Ryan Report tells us that we must ensure that children come first; above personal, professional or institutional loyalty, above all else.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office is the only independent statutory body charged by law to do its work in the best interests of the child.

It is the only Office expressely charged by law to listen to children and to voice their concerns.

It is the only Office expressely charged by law with investigating complaints from children.

The Ombudsman for Children’s Office was established by the Oireachtas, by the people for the people. Its role is to be a champion for children, to be with the most vulnerable and to ensure their voices are heard.

The Ombudsman Office was set up back in 1980. Clearly, the Oireachtas saw a need for a distinct Children’s Ombudsman with unique powers and functions because, 22 years later, it established the Ombudsman for Children’s Office. Are we to believe, in the aftermath of the Ryan Report, that the need for a distinct Office today has diminished in any way?

To merge the Ombudsman for Children’s Office with a range of other bodies, none of which have any express powers or functions related to children would be to do damage to this unique mandate established for our most vulnerable children.

Such a merger would also require extensive legal change imposing a significant burden on the Oireachtas and the public service with no return for children.

“This proposal does not make political or economic sense. It does not accord with the mood of the public in the aftermath of the Ryan Report nor does it accord with the mood of those senior members of Government the Office has met with in recent weeks to discuss the implementation of the Ryan Report. This proposal is unexpected, surprising and was not discussed with our Office.”

Given all that we know about the capacity of society, administrators and institutions to do serious harm to children, these unique powers must be protected and the independence of the Office guaranteed now and into the future.

Speaking today, Emily Logan said:

“the Ryan report shows us just what happens when children are not listened to. As a country, we have promised never to let those abuses of children happen again. My job – and that of my office - is to speak up for children and to investigate wrongdoing. It is just inconceivable that the distinct and independent nature of my office would be tampered with, diminishing the ability of my office, with its powers and specialised skills, to speak up for the abused child, the trafficked child, the disabled child, the child in care. I do not believe that that is where we as a society want to go. And I trust this is not where the Government wants to go, regardless of what An Bord Snip’s report may or may not say.”

For more information contact Nikki Gallagher at 01-8656803 or 086-8163246

ENDS

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