Challenge brought against appointment of Defence Forces Ombudsman

A High Court challenge aimed at seeking the removal of the person appointed as Ombudsman of the Defence Forces has been brought by the the Defence Forces representative organisation PDFORRA.

Challenge brought against appointment of Defence Forces Ombudsman

A High Court challenge aimed at seeking the removal of the person appointed as Ombudsman of the Defence Forces has been brought by the the Defence Forces representative organisation PDFORRA.

Earlier this month, President Michael D.Higgins, on the recommendation of Government, appointed Patrick Anthony (Tony) McCourt as the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces. Mr McCourt is a barrister and a former Army officer.

In a legal challenge brought by both PDFORRA and Mr Patrick Gorman, who is a member of the Defence Forces who has a matter pending before the Ombudsman, argues that Mr McCourt cannot hold the post because he is a former member of the permanent Defence Forces.

They say that the person holding the post must be independent in nature and cannot be held by either a civil servant or a member of the Defence Forces. They also claim that Mr McCourt was appointed to the position on a part-time basis.

This, they claim, is contrary to the 2004 Act for the Establishment of the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, which requires the position to be carried out on a full-time basis.

The Ombudsman's role is to deal with complaints made by members of the defence forces after existing internal grievance procedures have either been exhausted or not dealt with.

The action has been brought against the Government of Ireland, the Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, the State and the Attorney General.

In their action, PDFORRA and Mr Gorman are seeking various declarations including one that Mr McCourt is not lawfully entitled to hold the office of Ombudsman for the Defence Forces, that former members of the Defence Forces cannot hold the post and that the Government acted outside of its powers by making the post a part-time one.

They are also seeking an injunction restraining Mr McCourt from carrying out the duties of the Ombudsman of the Defence Forces.

Moving the application Ross Maguire SC for PDFORRA and Mr Gorman said it was their case that the position could not be held by a former member of the Defence Forces, particularly as it was open to former as well as current members to bring a complaint to the Ombudsman.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted, on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Michael Peart.

The matter was made returnable to a date in January.

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