The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, today (Tuesday), obtained Government approval for proposals to amend the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 following an extensive review of the operation of Ireland’s lobbying regime.
Speaking after the Government Meeting, the Minister said:
"The public want to be reassured that government policy is formulated in an open and transparent way. Clear obligations in relation to lobbying activity are essential in this regard. An effective system is one that tells us who is talking to whom about what, but also encourages public bodies to continue to be open to lobbying approaches from the widest range of interests in society, ensuring that a balance of opinion is sought in developing policy.
"Public concern had arisen in relation to former Ministers and advisers taking up lobbying roles soon after leaving office. I am taking action to address this issue and have secured government agreement to overhaul the legislative framework to ensure we have a system that is up to date, open, accountable and enforceable. I believe this will enhance public confidence in the system and I am looking forward to bringing legislation before the Dáil later this year to give effect to this. In particular, I will be proposing that failure to comply with the cooling-off period requirements of Section 22 of the Act be deemed to be a relevant contravention and offence under the Act, and this will be enforceable through an appropriate sanction for a breach of this provision. "I will also be taking the opportunity to propse a number of other amendments to the current legislative framework, which is broadly working well. I look foward now to working with my officials on the preparation of a General Scheme of the Bill and to then engaging with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach." Ireland’s legal framework on lobbying activities has been widely praised and supported by those individuals and organisations coming within its remit, as evidenced by the positive feedback from earlier public consultations. In particular, the legislation has been praised for the increased transparency it has brought to the lobbying space as it brings a greater awareness across all industries and sectors of when and how individuals and organisations lobby public officials.
Since 2015, almost 2,200 organisations or individuals have registered their lobbying activity on the Lobbying Register and almost 56,000 returns are available to view. The review by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform examined how to build on this strong foundation including recommendations made by the Standards in Public Office Commission given its experience in implementing the provisions of the Act. The amendments to be set out in the General Scheme will further strengthen Ireland’s lobbying laws, incorporating the learnings of the last six years.
Notes to Editors:
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the Act) was commenced on 1 September 2015. From that date, there has been a requirement for those who lobby designated public officials (DPOs) to register and report on their lobbying activities every four months on the Register of Lobbying (the Register). The part of the Act which provides for investigation and enforcement provisions was commenced on 1 January 2017.
The Act and related statutory instruments can be viewed at https://www.lobbying.ie/about-us/legislation
The Register, which is a web-based system, can be viewed at www.lobbying.ie and is overseen by the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Commission). There are currently more than 2,200 organisations and individuals who have registered on the Register, and almost 56,000 returns have been submitted and are available for viewing.
There is no fee to register as a lobbyist and members of the public can view and search the Register free of charge.
The website, as well as including the online Register, also has a suite of information tools designed to help lobbyists, DPOs and the public to fully understand the Act and its obligations.
The purpose of the Act is to provide appropriate transparency on "who is lobbying whom about what". In this context, the Act is designed to provide information to the public about:
- Who is lobbying;
- On whose behalf lobbying is being carried out;
- The issues involved in the lobbying;
- The intended result of the lobbying;
- Who is being lobbied.
This transparency of interest representation is critically important in order to allow citizens to follow the activities and potential influence of interest groups, representative bodies and industry and civil society organisations on policy and funding discussions and decisions.
The Act aims to do this by providing for:
- The establishment and maintenance of a publicly accessible Register of Lobbying;
- The Commission to be the regulator of lobbying;
- Obligations on lobbyists to register and to provide information regularly about their lobbying activities, including, in the case of professional lobbyists, information about their clients;
- A code of conduct on the carrying-on of lobbying activities;
- The introduction of a "cooling-off" period during which lobbying activity may not be carried out by some former public officials.
 Figures correct at 12 July 2021
Claire Godkin - Press Officer, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform - 085 806 3969, firstname.lastname@example.org