We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Former Defence Forces Ombudsman Paulyn Marrinan-Quinn speaking at PDFORRA event today. David O'Dowd
Defence Watchdog

Ex-Ombudsman: Military monitoring group may have been shelved by Government to save money in 2018

Paulyn Marrinan-Quinn, SC, was speaking at the annual delegate conference of PDFORRA

THE FOUNDING FORMER Defence Forces ombudsman said an Independent Monitoring Group (IMG) set up to provide oversight of the military believes it may have been shelved by the Government to save money. 

Paulyn Marrinan-Quinn, was the first Ombudsman and served in the role from 2005 to 2011. 

The Senior Counsel was speaking at the annual delegate conference for PDFORRA which is the group which represents 6,500 enlisted personnel across the Irish military. 

The Ombudsman of the Defence Forces (ODF) was established in 2004 and provides an independent statutory complaint investigation system for military personnel.

The IMG monitored and kept watch on the Irish Defence Forces and ensured adherence to best practice in human resources and governance. 

It was established in the wake of a number of allegations and reports, including by Dr Tom Clonan, into harassment, sexual harassment and bullying in the Irish Defence Forces. 

The first IMG was established in 2002 to oversee the implementation of recommendations arising from findings by Dr Eileen Doyle in a sweeping report in to claims of abuse in the military. 

Speaking to The Journal Marrinan-Quinn said that the role of the IMG then developed a series of responses which included an implementation group comprising personnel from the Department of Defence to ensure that key recommendations were introduced.

By 2014 the IMG was continuing its work but then in 2018 the process was put on ice after its last report. 

Marrinan-Quinn had been in the role of Ombudsman between 2005 and 2012 – she questions why the IMG ceased operating and believes it may have centred around concerns that it was getting too expensive. 

“How could you move on from something that is going to mind, this cherished machine, you can’t move on, to move on could be interpreted as abandoning it.

“So you can’t be abandoning the objectives of the IMG, which was to mind and look after it (Irish Defence Forces) and ensure that it continued, perhaps it was resourcing that may well have been the issue where people said, ‘we just don’t have the time and the resources to invest in this’,” she said. 

Marrinan-Quinn explained that the IMG required a number of groups, including oversight and monitoring bodies, to ensure that the process was “maintaining momentum”.

“Perhaps they just didn’t have the resources to cover it. I’m not purporting to be making their case or an explanation for them. But perhaps it could have been something like that,” she added. 

The Senior Counsel said it would be a “big conclusion and a dangerous conclusion to draw” to believe that victims were left without help because of the winding up of the original IMG. 

Marrinan-Quinn added that during her time as the Ombudsman no Defence Forces members had come forward to report that they were abused during their service. 


She said when she read the recent Independent Review Group report into abuse allegations and saw the volume of findings that it “shocked her”.

“I was particularly horrified because, having worked on that area, I couldn’t believe that they didn’t come forward (when I was Ombudsman). There was always talk, and experts would have told me that there was under reporting.

“Eileen Doyle, who was an expert in the field, used to say theoretically there is under reporting in bullying cases,” she said. 

Last week the Women of Honour, a group of former Defence Forces members who have alleged they were abused, have criticised the process of an inquiry, particularly around the terms of reference.

They said in a statement: “Meetings should have been held to agree a process on terms of reference. Nothing less than a full public tribunal to ascertain the truth will work. The people of Ireland deserve the truth.”

Marrinan-Quinn said she has not seen any of the terms of reference but said that the formation of any inquiry must involve Defence Forces members who made claims of abuse.

“I think that the victims obviously have to have a contribution to that. I think they’re invited to do so by the Tánaiste, but they also need to be able to say what they expect on the outcomes and to make sure that the outcomes are not defective or skim over things,” she added.  

Mark Keane, President of PDFORRA, supported Marrinan-Quinn’s view. 

“It was proven to be making progress, it was working – it made no sense that it was wound up. 

“The IRG group has said independent monitoring is what we need – why try and re-invent the wheel, it was there already. The IMG needs to be re-established,” he said. 

Conor King, General Secretary of the Representative Association of Commissioned Officers (RACO), also criticised the removal of the IMG mechanism.

“It’s telling to hear the first ODF bemoan the loss of the IMG and reference its good work.

“The IMG monitored safe staffing levels and best practice in training institutions. It afforded representative associations a key role in oversight of policy compliance, which may not always have been comfortable for authorities, but which was essential for transparency and confidence.

“Both representative associations have consistently pleaded with successive ministers and their department officials for its reinstatement, but these pleas were not heeded for years. It’s not too late to reconstitute this essential vehicle for positive culture, even after four years on the shelf,” he said.   

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
A mix of advertising and supporting contributions helps keep paywalls away from valuable information like this article. Over 5,000 readers like you have already stepped up and support us with a monthly payment or a once-off donation.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel