Guidelines for people carrying on lobbying activities

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Introduction

The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (no 5 of 2015) (the Act) was signed into law in March 2015, and commenced on 1 September 2015.  The enforcement provisions, contained in Part 4 of the Act, commenced on 1 January 2017.

 

Lobbying is an essential part of the democratic process through which citizens may make their views on public policy and public services known to politicians and public servants. Organisations such as interest groups, representative bodies, industry and civil society organisations, NGOs, charities and third party professional lobbyists all provide necessary input and feedback to politicians and public servants through communication of their views and concerns. The aim of the Act is not to restrict the flow of information or views on policy or legislation. The intention is to bring about significantly greater openness and transparency with respect to lobbying activities.

 

The Act is designed to provide information to the public about:

  • Who is lobbying,
  • On whose behalf is lobbying being carried out,
  • What are the issues involved in the lobbying,
  • What is the intended result of the lobbying,
  • Who is being lobbied, and
  • What is the extent of the lobbying activities.

 

In general, the Act applies to commercial organisations that have more than 10 full time employees; representative bodies with at least one full time employee; and advocacy groups, non-governmental organisations and charities that have at least one full time employee and that promote particular interests or causes, and professionals engaged in lobbying on behalf of a client who fits within the above criteria. In certain circumstances, where the communications concern the zoning or development of land,the Act may apply to individuals and groups who may not ordinarily regard themselves as carrying on lobbying activities.

 

The Act aims to make lobbying more open and transparent by providing for

  • The establishment and maintenance of an on-line Register of Lobbying (the Register);
  • 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;
  • The Standards in Public Office Commission (Standards Commission) to be the regulator of lobbying;
  • The imposition of a cooling-off period on certain lobbying activities that may be carried out by some former public officials.

 

The Act provides that the Standards Commission may produce a Code of Conduct for persons carrying on lobbying activities “with a view to promoting high professional standards and good practices”.  The Standards Commission has recently published a Code of Conduct for Persons Carrying on Lobbying Activities (Code). The Act provides that a person carrying on lobbying activities shall have regard to this Code.  These guidelines, therefore, should be read in conjunction with the Code.

When did the Act come into effect?

The Act came into effect on 1 September 2015.  The first registration period (“relevant period”) was 1 September 2015 – 31 December 2015. If you carried on lobbying activities during that period you had to register on www.lobbying.ie by 21 January 2016 at the latest. The first returns of lobbying activities, setting out the details of your lobbying activities in the period 1 September 2015 - 31 December 2015, had also to be submitted by 21 January 2016.

 

The enforcement provisions, which provide for offences and penalties for persons who do not comply with the requirements of the Act came into effect on 1 January 2017.

 

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