THE Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, 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.