A significant disagreement between two of our most senior public figures in NI - Attorney General John Larkin says the Public Service Ombudsman Marie Anderson cannot threaten the public with contempt

Feb 08, 10:27 AM

There is a significant disagreement between the most senior lawyer in Northern Ireland, the Attorney General John Larkin, and the Public Service Ombudsman Marie Anderson. Marie Anderson works on behalf of the public - the clue is in the title - the Public Service Ombudsman. But she has been threatening members of the public with legal action if they share reports about themselves. Think about that - a report about yourself cannot be shared by you unless Marie Anderson lets you. And if you dare to do it, she will threaten you with comtempt. Here's the big story - John Larkin - the Attorney General - says she has no right to do this. None. He says to her in a letter "That the Ombudsman herself considers the report to be confidential until she decides to publish it is irrelevant…. Because the Ombudsman has no power to make an order restricting publication she ought not to threaten citizens with contempt proceedings when there is no apparent basis for subjecting their proposed actions to such a sanction". We reported on an example of this last year. But we reveal this morning Marie Anderson has done it more than once. The Nolan Show can reveal that Marie Anderson has threatened another complainant with contempt - remember the most senior lawyer in Northern Ireland, the Attorney General John Larkin, says she's not allowed to do that. Like last time - all the person did was share one of Marie Anderson's reports. But this time, NIPSO go further. They threatened a citizen Carol McCullough with the Official Secrets Act - something the Attorney General has not commented on. Stephen spoke to Carol, and got reaction from Newsletter political editor Sam McBride.