Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman Marie Anderson and Irish Ombudsman Peter Tyndall have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide for co-operation on complaints about North-South Implementation Bodies. The MoU will ensure that users of public services, both north and south of the Ireland/Northern Ireland border, will be able to have complaints investigated efficiently by the appropriate independent Ombudsman.
The Office of the Ombudsman of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman receive complaints from people living in Northern Ireland and the Republic about the services provided by the North-South Implementation Bodies. Both Ombudsmen also have jurisdiction in relation to complaints about access to information about these bodies.
The MoU strengthens existing arrangements between the two Offices, particularly in the context of Brexit and strengthened legislation governing the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.
The North-South Implementation Bodies include those operating in the areas of food safety, trade, aquaculture and marine.
Under the MoU both Offices will:
Investigate and report on complaints in their respective jurisdictions,
Promote mutual communication and co-operation,
Ensure the rights and best interests of complainants are central to decisions on jurisdiction over complaints,
Strengthen practical arrangements for North-South Implementation Bodies in their handling of complaints,
Reflect human rights values and principles.
Both Offices are also in regular discussion regarding the potential impact of Brexit on users of public services in their jurisdictions. Ensuring that service users continue to have access to redress regarding public services is at the heart of these discussions. Areas including cross-border healthcare arrangements have been a focus for consideration.
Six North-South Implementation Bodies were established under the Belfast Agreement of 1998. These bodies operate in the areas of food safety, trade, tourism, business development, language, aquaculture and marine, special EU programmes and inland waterways.
Source: Office of the Ombudsman, Ireland