Irish Law Soc slams party plans for legal ombudsman

An Irish political party's election manifesto pledge to introduce an independent legal ombudsman with statutory powers to deal with public complaints against the legal profession has been met with stiff opposition from the Irish Law Society.

The Progressive Democrats, a centre right party, is tipped to become part of a new coalition government after next month's Irish general election.

The party's spokesman for justice, senior counsel Michael McDowell, is tipped for the post of Attorney General. This would place him in an ideal position to put the proposal through.

He claimed an ombudsman would be “a more user-friendly and informal means of obtaining a degree of satisfaction about complaints. It is just a means whereby people can have some redress short of calling for someone to be disbarred.”

He added: “Professional bodies will naturally be defensive to some extent and people outside will feel that they stick up for their own.”

However, Ken Murphy, Law Society director general, said a legal ombudsman was unnecessary as sufficient safeguards already existed. “The Law Society has nothing to hide, but I don't believe a case can be made that additional protection is necessary,” he said.