Office of the Ombudsman
The main duty of the Irish Ombudsman is to investigate complaints made by members of the public about how they have been treated by public bodies in Ireland. The Ombudsman can examine decisions, refusals to take action and administrative procedures of public bodies.
The Ombudsman can demand any information, document or file from the body complained of.
The Ombudsman is not a political office and he or she must remain independent in the performance of the functions of Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman stays in office for 6 years. He or she may resign or may be removed from office because of misbehaviour, incapacity or bankruptcy. He or she must retire at the age of 67 years.
You can make a complaint if you are unhappy with the service provided by any of the following bodies:
The Ombudsman (Amendment) Act 2012 brought over 180 additional public bodies under the remit of the Ombudsman with effect from 1 May 2013, including publicly funded third-level education bodies. The Office has compiled an indicative list of these public bodies.
How complaints to the Ombudsman are investigated
If you make a complaint to the Ombudsman, he or she will carry out a preliminary examination. The preliminary examination is a quick and informal way of deciding whether a formal investigation is necessary.
During the preliminary examination the Ombudsman will decide whether the action of the public body that you complained about affected you in a negative way. You may be interviewed by the Ombudsman in an informal way at this stage.
The Ombudsman will then consider if the action that you complained about:
- Was made without proper authority
- Was made on irrelevant grounds
- Was made in a negligent or careless manner
- Was based on wrong or incomplete information
- Discriminated against you
- Was based on bad administrative practice or
- Was otherwise an example of unfair or unsound administration.
Most complaints do not go any further than the preliminary investigation stage.
The formal investigation
The next step in the process is for the Ombudsman to carry out a formal investigation. The Ombudsman will draft a Statement of Complaint in consultation with you.
The investigation will be carried out in private and usually in writing. The Ombudsman may demand any information, files or documents to help him or her carry out the investigation.
At the end of the investigation process, the Ombudsman must inform you of the decision. The Ombudsman only has the power to make a recommendation. His or her findings are not legally binding and the Ombudsman cannot force the body to accept or act upon the decision.
If the body that you complained about fails to act upon the decision of the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman may make a report to the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Complaints that the Ombudsman cannot investigate
There are situations where the Ombudsman cannot carry out an investigation of your complaint:
- Where your complaint is about a private company, individual, private practitioner, dentist, optician, pharmacist, etc.
- Where your complaint is about the clinical judgement of a doctor
- Where any minister of the Government sends a request in writing to the Ombudsman to cease the investigation
- Where the matter you complained is being decided by the courts
- Where legislation gives you a right of appeal against the decision of the public body to the courts
- Where legislation gives you a right of appeal against the decision of the public body to an independent appeal body
- Where the decision or action of the public body that you complained about relates to recruitment or the terms and conditions of employment
- Where you are complaining about a decision relating to immigration or naturalisation
- Where you are complaining about a decision relating to a pardon or remission of prison sentences
- Where you are complaining about the actions of the Gardai or the administration of a prison.
There is no charge for making a complaint to the Ombudsman.
How to apply
You must make your complaint to the Ombudsman as soon as possible. The time limit for making a complaint about a decision or action of a body is 12 months. Time starts to run from the date the decision is made, or action is taken or from the date that you become aware that the decision or action occurred.
You may make your complaint in writing, online, by telephone or by e-mail. You should include any relevant documentation or correspondence.
The Office of the Ombudsman is open from 9.15am to 5.30pm. Monday to Friday. The Ombudsman also maintains monthly regional offices and organises an annual programme of regional visits.