A new Ombudsman’s office for investigating complaints about public services has been launched.

The Office of the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO) has been created by the Ombudsman (NI) Act 2016, a new piece of Assembly legislation aimed at making it easier for the public to complain about public services and at increasing the public accountability of public service providers.

The Ombudsman independently investigates complaints about a wide range of bodies spanning the health, housing, local government and education sectors. However, from today, the public can also complain to the Ombudsman about the actions of the Northern Ireland Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission.

The new NIPSO has been given a wider remit and greater investigative powers than its predecessors, and will be able to:

  • publish investigation reports in the public interest
  • investigate complaints about social work decisions
  • investigate complaints about maladministration by government departments in commercial and contractual matters (including procurement)
  • access legal advice that is relevant to an investigation
  • take any action in addition to or instead of an investigation, such as conciliation

Other key changes include:

  • people can complain directly to NIPSO (there is no requirement to obtain MLA sponsorship to make a complaint about a Government Department)
  • providers of public services must signpost complainants to NIPSO when at the conclusion of their complaints process
  • people must bring a complaint to NIPSO within six months of completing the public service’s internal complaints process.

Mrs Marie Anderson, has been appointed as the first NIPSO.

Commenting on the launch of the new Ombudsman’s Office Mrs Anderson said:

“I am pleased and privileged to have been appointed by the Assembly to lead this new Office and to have the opportunity of implementing the powers provided by the refreshed Ombudsman legislation. By ensuring an independent and impartial investigation into a complaint, my aim is to help ensure a fair and efficient public administration for all.

 As Ombudsman it is my role to ensure that the public can easily complain about public services and can expect that their complaint will be thoroughly examined by my staff.  I equally recognise the importance of sharing the experience of this office and best practice in complaints handling with the organisations under my jurisdiction to support them in improving both service delivery to the public and their complaints handling practices. It is important that those organisations take complaints seriously and make genuine attempts to resolve all complaints at source. Where that is not possible or a member of the public remains dissatisfied my office will independently assess their concerns.

 The Assembly’s legislation has given me the power to ensure that public sector providers are held to account for their actions. The ability to publish investigation reports in the public interest is an important new power that will have far reaching implications for the public sector as those reports will ensure that the learning from complaints is widely shared”.

 The new NIPSO replaces the previous offices of Assembly Ombudsman for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Complaints.

In addition to her role as Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman, Marie Anderson has also been appointed as the Northern Ireland Local Government Commissioner for Standards.  The functions of the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Ombudsman have also been transferred to her Office.

For information about how to make a complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman please visit


L-R Harold Nicholson and Lisa McBride of Mourne Seafoods launch their new consumer focussed e-commerce fresh fish business

Fish lovers across the UK and Ireland will now be able to enjoy fresh fish from the port of Kilkeel delivered straight to their doors thanks to the launch of a new e-commerce business Mourne Fish Box, supported by Invest Northern Ireland.

The new venture which is aimed at the domestic fish consumer has been developed by Mourne Seafoods, the Kilkeel based supplier of fresh fish and shellfish to the hospitality trade.

Customers to the Mourne Fishbox website will be able to buy a range of 2kg and 1 kg fresh fish boxes which will be despatched from Kilkeel that day and delivered within 24 hours.  At this launch stage five standard Mourne Fish Boxes are available, ‘The Filleted Fish Box’ comprising cod, salmon, haddock, mackerel and hake; ‘The Dinner Box’ comprising of cod, smoked haddock and fish pie/chowder mix; ‘The Dinner Party Box’ comprising seabass, scallops and oysters, ‘The Smoked Fish Box’ comprising of smoked haddock, smoked salmon and smoked mackerel and ‘The Scallops Box’ comprising of scallops landed locally and hand shucked on the premises.  All Mourne Fishbox fish and shellfish is prepared ready to cook and presented in vacuum sealed packs in an outer insulated and chilled box.

Commenting on the launch of the new business, Mourne Fish Box,  Managing  Director Harold Nicholson said –

“Our aim is to provide the quality conscious fish consumer with the freshest fish he or she can buy and through internet technology and our courier network we can do that throughout the UK and Ireland.

Here in Kilkeel we have a tremendous range of fresh fish and shellfish being landed every day.  When a customer orders a Mourne Fishbox on-line they can be assured that their box will comprise of fish that has been caught or processed within the last 24 hours.  The majority of our fish is sourced from the Irish Sea, with the exception of salmon which is sourced from elsewhere in Ireland or Scotland and exotic fish such as seabass, imported from Turkey or Greece”.

Invest Northern Ireland has offered Mourne Seafood £20,540 towards this project. This includes support with developing its e-commerce site, assistance with the marketing activities for the Fish Box service and support with recruiting a new staff member to drive sales and process orders.

John Hood, Invest NI’s Director of Food, said: “This is an innovative project for Mourne Seafood, aimed at maximising a business to consumer model to increase its sales particularly in the Republic of Ireland.

“Invest NI has enabled Mourne Seafood to develop the capability to offer its new service and invest in a focused marketing campaign to raise its profile and online presence.

“Enhancing its workforce with a dedicated individual to manage the order processing and sales generation will also be an important element to help the company establish a competitive platform for its online sales.”  said John Hood.