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The Ombudsman Act 1980

The Ombudsman Act, 1980 established the Office of Ombudsman and outlines the powers of the Ombudsman in relation to the examination and investigation of complaints made to him. The Act also defines the Ombudsman's reporting relationship with the Dáil and Seanad.

Significant features of the Act

The most significant features of the Act are as follows:


The Ombudsman is appointed by the President following a resolution passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas recommending the appointment.


The Ombudsman is independent in the performance of his functions


The Ombudsman can investigate an action where a complaint has been made to him (or on his own initiative) and having carried out a preliminary examination of the matter it appears to him

  • that the action has adversely effected the complainant, and
  • that the action was or may have been
    • taken without proper authority,
    • taken on irrelevant grounds,
    • the result of negligence or carelessness,
    • based on erroneous or incomplete information,
    • improperly discriminatory,
    • based on an undesirable administrative practice, or
    • otherwise contrary to fair or sound administration

Preliminary Examination

The purpose of the preliminary examination stage is two-fold:

  • to establish in a quick and informal way whether a formal Investigation is warranted, and
  • to enable complaints to be resolved with the minimum of formality, particularly in the case of more straightforward complaints.

Conduct of Investigations

Investigations must be conducted in private.

The procedure for conducting an investigation is a matter for the Ombudsman himself to decide.

When conducting an investigation or a preliminary examination the Ombudsman may require any person with information relevant to the case to furnish that information or attend before him.

Findings and Reports

The Ombudsman is empowered to make recommendations only; his findings are not binding.

When the Ombudsman carries out an investigation he must inform the complainant of the result of the investigation. He must also indicate how the body complained against has responded to any recommendation he may have made.

Where it appears to the Ombudsman that the response to a recommendation which he has made is not satisfactory he may make a special report on the matter to the Oireachtas.

Before the Ombudsman makes a finding or criticism against any person or body in a report or recommendation he must afford that person or body concerned an opportunity to consider the matter and make representations to him in relation to that finding or criticism.

The Ombudsman must make an annual report on the performance of his functions to the Houses of the Oireachtas.


Excluded from examination or investigation by the Ombudsman are cases:

  • where the matter is before the Courts;
  • where the aggrieved person has a statutory right of appeal to the courts;
  • where there is a right of appeal to an independent appeal body;
  • relating to recruitment or terms or conditions of employment;
  • relating to aliens or naturalisation;
  • relating to pardon or to remission of prison sentences or other court penalties;
  • relating to the administration of prisons


Extension of the Remit of the Ombudsman

SI No 332 of 1984

The Government made an Order that, with effect from 1 April, 1985, local authorities, health boards, and An Post would be within the Ombudsman's remit.

With regard to the health boards, the Government Order excludes from her remit "(a) persons when acting on behalf of health boards and (in theopinion of the Ombudsman) solely in the exercise of clinical judgement in connection with the diagnosis or illness or the care or treatment of a patient, whether formed by the person taking the action or by any other person, or

(b) health boards when acting on the advice of persons acting asaforesaid, being actions of health boards that, in the opinion of the Ombudsman, were taken solely on such advice".

The Health Act 2004 created the Health Service Executive which took on the functions of the health boards with effect from 1 January 2005.

The extended remit of the Ombudsman also excludes examination of the actions of local authorities; "when performing reserved functions within the meaning of the County Management Acts, 1940 to 1955, or reserved functions within the meaning of any of the Acts relating to the management of a county borough".