Usually, you will be asked to write your complaint to the Director General. Sometimes complaints may be made to the Office of the Ombudsman on the telephone, by calling into the office, or by fax or e-mail.

If your complaint is considered a serious one, the Director General will ask a staff member to act as a Complaints Officer. The Complaints Officer will examine your complaint and make recommendations about it to the Director General.

Documents about your complaint must be kept in a separate file and not held on the personnel file of the person you have complained about.

The staff member you have complained about will be shown all the evidence gathered by the Complaints Officer, including your complaint, and given a chance to respond to this evidence by the Complaints Officer.

In all cases, the person you have complained about will be allowed to comment on the final letter to you before it is sent to you.

If the staff member and the Complaints Officer disagree about the outcome of the examination, the Director General will look at the issue again. The decision of the Director General will be final. Any decision reached will not affect the rights of any individual under Finance Circular 11/2001. This outlines how complaints about the civil service are handled. Due to the Office of the Ombudsman’s obligations under data protection legislation, we will not be able to share information with you about internal staffing matters. Such matters are deemed to be personal information under the relevant legislation and, as such, confidential. This means that we cannot let you know about any action taken against the staff member as a result of your complaint.

The final letter should be cleared through the Director General and, if appropriate, the Ombudsman, before it is sent to you.

Each complaint will be dealt with individually. If action or compensation is recommended by the Complaints Officer, it will be up to the Director General to make a decision about that recommendation. We do not always seek compensation or indeed receive it if we do request it.

The Complaints Officer may recommend action to the Director General that will prevent the same problem happening again.

How should I behave when making a complaint?

Most people who complain to our office act in a calm and reasonable manner. We understand that making a complaint against a public body can be stressful and that, from time to time, this stress may show in how you interact with this office. Our staff members know that managing these interactions is part of their job.

Our staff are not expected to tolerate behaviour that is abusive, offensive, threatening or, due to the frequency of contact, takes up too much time and resources that could be spent dealing with other complaints and investigations.

What kind of behaviour is unacceptable?

The following types of behaviour are not acceptable:

  • Unreasonable persistence
    If a complaint has been examined and closed by the Ombudsman’s office, the following is unreasonable persistence: insisting another caseworker looks again at the complaint after an appeal has been completed, changing the complaint to present it again as a new complaint or continuing with an argument that has already been looked at.

  • Unreasonable demands
    An unreasonable demand can include a demand for an investigation into a matter the Ombudsman is not allowed to examine, looking for a solution that is not realistic or is disproportionate, or telling the Ombudsman how to carry out the investigation.

  • Unreasonable lack of co-operation
    You must present your complaint in an organised manner. Unreasonable lack of co-operation can include: not identifying the complaint clearly, presenting too much information and expecting a fast response, changing your complaint in the middle of the investigation and being dishonest about the facts.

  • Unreasonable arguments
    You may not make unreasonable arguments. Examples include exaggerating issues, presenting irrelevant or unreasonable arguments, focusing on small details, insisting your version of events is accepted as fact where there is no objective evidence to support it, refusing to consider other versions of events, or being guided by unfounded conspiracy theories or by desire for revenge or a grudge against another person or public body.

  • Unreasonable behaviour
    Unreasonable behaviour includes threats of violence, abuse of the Ombudsman’s staff, and rude or aggressive conduct.

Only about 5 per cent of our complainants engage in unreasonable conduct.

What happens if I behave in this way?

If we consider your behaviour to be unreasonable, we will tell you why and ask you to change it. If it might be useful, we will consider changing our service in a way that may help you avoid unreasonable behaviour in the future.

If the unreasonable behaviour continues, we will take action to put limits on your contact with our office. This decision will only normally be taken after a senior investigator (or above) has reviewed the situation. Restrictions will be appropriate and in line with the nature of the behaviour. The options we are most likely to consider are:

  • asking you to contact us by letter only

  • asking you to only make contact with a named staff member

  • asking you to call by telephone only on certain days and times

  • limiting your access to the office

  • asking you to enter an agreement about your future conduct

  • as a final option, terminating all contact with you if this behaviour shows no signs of stopping (the Director General will make this decision)

In all cases, we will write to tell you why we believe your behaviour is unreasonable and what action we propose to take. If the behaviour is so extreme that it threatens the immediate safety and welfare of the Ombudsman’s staff or others, we will consider other options. These could include, reporting the matter to An Garda Síochána or instigating legal action. In such cases, we may not give you prior warning of that action.

Regardless of your behaviour, our staff will act respectfully towards you and take an impartial attitude to your complaint.