Emily O'Reilly

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Emily O'Reilly
Emily O'Reilly in the Polish Senate (2014)
European Ombudsman
Assumed office
1 October 2013
Preceded byNikiforos Diamandouros
Personal details
O'Reilly and husband Stephen Ryan (right) in 2019

Emily O'Reilly is an author and former journalist and broadcaster who became Ireland's first female Ombudsman in 2003, succeeding Kevin Murphy. On 3 July 2013, she was voted European Ombudsman by the European Parliament.[1] She was re-elected in 2014[2] and in 2019,[3] in each case for a mandate of five more years. She was educated at University College Dublin, Trinity College Dublin, and Harvard University, where she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship in journalism.[4]


She began her career as a journalist in the 1970s. Since then, she has held senior positions with The Irish Press and the Sunday Tribune, as well as serving as a political columnist at The Sunday Times and as the Political Editor of The Sunday Business Post.[citation needed] In 1991 she made an extended appearance on the British television discussion programme After Dark, alongside among others Patrick Cosgrave, J. P. Donleavy, David Norris and Francis Stuart.

In 1998, she became the editor of Magill magazine. She resigned in September 1999 when the magazine's sister publication, In Dublin, was banned by the Censorship of Publications Appeal Board for advertising brothels and prostitution services.[5] O'Reilly was also a broadcaster on Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ) and Today FM.[citation needed]

In the course of her journalistic career, she won two awards: Journalist of the Year and Woman Journalist of the Year.[citation needed]

Irish Ombudsman and Information Commissioner[edit]

On 1 June 2003, she received her Warrant of Appointment as Irish Ombudsman and Information Commissioner from the then President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, at Áras an Uachtaráin. She has said of her job title, "I will be an ombudswoman but will have no difficulty in being referred to as either".[6]

From 2007 O'Reilly was also appointed Commissioner for Environmental Information under the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations (S.I. No. 133 of 2007).[7]

She retired from these positions and was succeeded by Peter Tyndall in December 2013.[8]

Transparency and accountability of Irish public bodies[edit]

In a speech delivered in Dublin on 20 June 2006 to the Institute of Public Administration, O'Reilly criticised "some service providers, both public and private" for retreating from dealing personally with the public through the use of call centres and the Internet. She mentioned the Irish Revenue Commissioners in this context, pointing out that a significant proportion of the clients of these bodies "do not have access to the web" and therefore the level of personal contact is inadequate as a consequence.[9] She also believed that public access to information under the Freedom of Information Act had been "excessively curtailed", often in order to protect sectional interests, such as the performance of schools.[9] She advised that the Act should be extended to include a number of public bodies previously exempted from the law, including the Garda Síochána, the Central Bank of Ireland and the National Asset Management Agency[10] and that fees charged were a further inhibitor.[9]

O'Reilly is the author of three books: Candidate: The Truth Behind the Presidential Campaign (1991), about President of Ireland Mary Robinson; Masterminds of the Right (1992) about political Catholicism in Ireland; and the controversial biography, Veronica Guerin (1998).[11]

European Ombudsman[edit]

O'Reilly was appointed European Ombudsman by the European Parliament in 2013, and re-appointed in 2014 and 2019. Her current term expires in 2024.[12]


  • Veronica Guerin, Vintage, 1998. ISBN 0-09-976151-3
  • Candidate: The Truth Behind the Presidential Campaign, Attic Press, 1991. ISBN 1-85594-021-3
  • Masterminds of the Right, Attic Press, 1992. ISBN 1-85594-044-2


  1. ^ Bohan, Christine (3 July 2013). "Next stop Strasbourg: Emily O'Reilly wins vote to become new EU Ombudsman". TheJournal.ie. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  2. ^ "O'Reilly re-elected as European Ombudsman". RTE.ie. 16 December 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  3. ^ "Emily O'Reilly re-elected European Ombudsman". European Parliament press room. 18 December 2019. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  4. ^ "The Ombudsman's Office/Previous Office Holders". The Office of the Ombudsman Ireland. Archived from the original on 24 December 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  5. ^ Keane, Conor (18 August 1999). "Prostitution crackdown to focus on pimps and brothel owners". The Examiner – News From Ireland. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  6. ^ Brennock, Mark (26 March 2003). "Emily O'Reilly to be appointed as State's next Ombudsman". The Irish Times. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  7. ^ "About Us, Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information, Ireland". 25 April 2012. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Peter Tyndall to succeed O'Reilly as Ombudsman". RTE.ie. 8 October 2013. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  9. ^ a b c O'Reilly, Emma (20 June 2006). "Ombudsman's Speeches: Speech at the Launch of the Diploma in Management of Modern Public Service Delivery (20.06.2006)". ombudsman.gov.ie. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  10. ^ Wade, Jennifer (4 May 2011). "Information Commissioner wants FOI legislation extended". theJournal.ie. Archived from the original on 1 February 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  11. ^ Allen, Liz (6 May 1998). "The second fall of Veronica Guerin". BBC News. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  12. ^ "Emily O'Reilly: CURRICULUM VITAE". ombudsman.europa.eu. 18 September 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2021.

External links[edit]