By Dan Buckley and Michael Brennan
THE new Garda Ombudsman Commission will have the staffing and budget to match the Police Ombudsman in the North, according to Justice Minister Michael McDowell.
However, Fine Gael last night claimed it will be grossly under-funded compared to its Northern equivalent.
The members of the three-person garda commission - Judge Kevin Haugh, former Irish Times editor Conor Brady and former Consumer Affairs Director Carmel Foley - were sworn in yesterday by President Mary McAleese.
Mr McDowell said the Garda Ombudsman would help to achieve a radical overhaul of the force.
"It will be fully funded to the same extent as Nuala O’Loan’s (the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland)," he said.
The Garda Ombudsman Commission will have a budget of €10 million, which is roughly equivalent to the £7m budget (€10.24m) of the Police Ombudsman of Northern Ireland.
It will employ between 50 and 100 staff, some of which may be recruited from abroad, and will investigate complaints from the public about garda wrongdoing.
However, Fine Gael’s Justice Spokesman Jim O’Keeffe said the funding, in real terms, pales in comparison to the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
"Minister McDowell, after procrastinating for years on the issue of an ombudsman, has now left it under-funded.
"The police forces deal with populations of almost 1.5 million and over 4 million respectively. This means that, in real terms, the new Garda Ombudsman will have to operate on a budget one-third that of its northern counterpart."
Enterprise Minister Micheál Martin announced Ms Foley had resigned as Director of Consumer Affairs to take up her new position with the Garda Ombudsman Commission.
He said Ms Foley had consistently argued the consumers’ case in a diverse range of areas and paid tribute to her work during the euro changeover in particular.
"I am sure that the director’s experience in serving the consumers’ and the public’s interest would be a tremendous asset to the Garda Ombudsman Commission in carrying out its important work."