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Ombudsman Commission must be provided adequate funding to be up and running by January

22 November, 2006


Speaking in the Dáil today during statements on the estimates, Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD criticised the Tánaiste and Justice Minister Michael McDowell for providing €1.5milllion to the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission, a politically biased body established outside and in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said the Tánaiste's right wing priorities and disdain for justice and human rights have been made crystal clear and went on to criticise McDowell for not providing enough funding to the Garda Ombudsman Commission to allow it to be fully up and running by January 2007 as he had previously promised it would.

He said, "Once again the Tánaiste's right wing priorities and disdain for justice and human rights are made crystal clear. The so-called Independent Monitoring Commission, a politically biased body established outside and in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, is to receive €1.5 million in funding next year. Whereas the Human Rights Commission, a body established on foot of the Good Friday Agreement and tasked with advocating respect for the human rights of some 4.2million people inhabiting the 26 counties, is to receive just €2 million. The HRC needs significantly greater resources if it is to carryout its mission and I am calling on the Minister to make special provisions to reverse this deficit in the Budget.

"Secondly, we were promised by the Minister that the Garda Ombudsman Commission would be fully operational by January 2007 but the Estimates betray the empty nature of that promise. The completely ineffective and unacceptable Garda Complaints Board which should be winding down next year, if the Ombudsman Commission is really to take over, receives an increase in funding of 4 per cent. And the Ombudsman Commission is to receive funding for next year that is just 3 per cent greater than the funding it received this year during which it has been inoperative. This does not instil confidence that the Ombudsman Commission will be up, running and receiving complaints from January. I am asking the Minister to clarify this matter today as there are currently many victims in need of an independent ombudsman to vindicate their rights. On what date will the Ombudsman Commission commence receiving complaints?

"Furthermore, €10.3 million is far from sufficient if the Ombudsman Commission is to have a real chance of being effective and living up to its potential in terms of investigating complaints to the satisfaction of victims and restoring public confidence in the Gardaí. The PSNI Ombudsman received €10.8 million for the year ended March 2006 a larger figure than that allotted to the Garda Ombudsman Commission for next year. Yet the Garda Ombudsman Commission is to have responsibility for overseeing a force that is nearly twice the size of the PSNI, and three times the geographic area and population." ENDS

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