Ombudsman’s report on ‘lost at sea scheme’ criticised

The Ombudsman's report which was heavily critical of a government's treatment of a Donegal family has been sharply criticised.

Emily O'Reilly's report stated that the 'lost at sea' scheme was flawed and that the Byrne family from Bruckless should have been included, she recommended the family be paid compensation.

However former secretary general at the Department of the Marine, Tom Carroll told an Oireachtas committee that aspects of Ms O'Reilly's report  were “tenuous” and not soundly based.

Francis Byrne, his son Jimmy (16) and three crew members were lost with their fishing vessel in 1981, but Mr Byrne’s family missed the application deadline for the scheme by a year.

The Ombudsman’s report found the Byrne family had not received fair treatment under the scheme which allotting tonnage quota to families whose fishing vessels were lost at sea.

Tom Carroll, who is now retired, rejected the Ombudsman’s claim that the scheme was advertised inadequately and her view that the department should have informed more families.

He described some contentions in her report as “tenuous” and not in his opinion soundly based - he also suggested Ms O'Reilly had not presented a strong case.

Mr Carroll, defending the handling of the situation, said motives and stance should not be seen as showing any lack of concern for their case but rather as the balancing of competing general policy requirements and individual needs where the outcome can often be felt as being harsh in particular circumstances.