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The Word on the Week

Ombudsman

In this case the ombudsman is a woman! None other than our own Emily O’Reilly who presented her annual report this week as the European Ombudsman. She got the job on the back of her proven ability here in Ireland and it looks like she will be re-elected next May for a further 4 year term.

What is the job that she has done so successfully? It does not sound very glamorous, fielding complaints which the public raise about the workings of the European Parliament. Last year her staff of 80 had to deal with 23,000 of them! Of these 350 led to the opening of enquiries. You can imagine that she would not be very popular with the Parliamentarians she is investigating!

Her success is largely due to her treating the work not so much as a complaint handling body but an office which can bring reality into the cliché dominated jargon of Brussels-speak! She has worked to hold politicians to act out the words they use like transparency and accountability. These are trotted out so glibly in their speeches but seldom reckoned on having to actually put into practice.

She has also been proactive in investigating matters which have not been subject of any complaint. Last July she initiated a probe into the EC-US trade deal which lacked transparency. She also has an ongoing enquiry into the close links some EU staff members have with big business.

Her years doing the job in Ireland have proved to be an effective training ground!

Just how difficult the job is in Ireland was demonstrated recently when the Garda Ombudsman suspected his office was being bugged. The ensuing fracas claimed the heads of the Minister of Justice and the Garda Commissioner both of whom had to resign. It leaves a number of unanswered questions that official enquiries have not been able to get to the bottom of.

The principles of transparency and accountability are writ large in the Bible.

Perhaps they are best summed up by the writer to the Hebrews who had a high view of the perspicacity of Scripture, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Chapter 4 verses 12-13).

But you might say, “I don’t read the Bible so how can I be accountable?” St Paul writing to people like that in Rome said, “They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares (Chapter 2 verses 15-16).

Don’t leave it to the divine Ombudsman to expose you. Confess your sins and commit your life in prayer to Jesus. “Whoever comes to Me I will never drive away” John 6:37.