From 1 September 2015, lobbying is now regulated in Ireland under the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the "Act"). The Act will have major implications for those lobbying public officials, including international companies lobbying an Irish public official within the jurisdiction.
The Act introduces a publicly accessible register for those carrying on lobbying activities - not just professional lobbyists – as well as providing for a one-year cooling-off period before former politicians and senior public servants can engage in lobbying following their retirement. The Act also permits the Standards in Public Office Commission ("SIPO") to introduce a statutory code of conduct for lobbyists.
Lobbying is broadly defined under the Act as the making of a "relevant communication" by a lobbyist to a designated public official. A relevant communication is any communication, written or oral, direct or indirect, made to a designated public official, which relates to:
- the initiation, development or modification of any public policy or programme;
- the preparation or amendment of an enactment; or
- the award of financial support involving public funds.
Under the Act, registrable communications are those made to "designated public officials", which include Irish Government Ministers, members of parliament, special advisers, and other senior public servants and office holders who were prescribed by statutory instrument on 1 September 2015. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform can prescribe additional public servants and we expect him to do so in the coming months.
As well as professional lobbyists who make relevant communications on behalf of those persons at (a) to (c) below in return for payment, the following persons will also be considered lobbyists, when lobbying on their own behalf, for the purposes of the Act:
- an employer with more than ten full-time employees;
- industry and advocacy representatives with one or more full-time employees; or
- any person lobbying in relation to the zoning / development of land.
With effect from 1 September 2015, all lobbyists must register with SIPO and submit particulars of their lobbying three times a year. The Act contains sanctions for non-compliance.
It is recommended that all organisations affected by the Act introduce and develop compliance policies to ensure relevant communications are registered. Additionally, all returns should be thoroughly reviewed and advice sought where necessary, as the information, once published, is freely available to the public.
Pictured L-R: Mr Justice Daniel
O'Keeffe, Chairman, Standards in Public
Office Commission, Mr Garrett Fennell, Director, Public Affairs Ireland,
Professor Gary Murphy, Head of the School of Law and Government, DCU,
Ms Sherry Perreault, Head of Lobbying, Regulation Ireland and
Ms Bríd Munnelly, Head of Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution, Matheson.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.