The Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (the "2023 Act") was signed into law by the President earlier today (23 June 2023). The 2023 Act will come into force once it has been commenced by the Minister for Finance.
As discussed in our previous update, the 2023 Act introduces a number of key changes to the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the "2015 Act") including:
- The expansion of the 2015 Act in respect of who may be considered a lobbyist to include bodies, such as business representative bodies, with no employees and which exist primarily to represent the interests of their members or to take up particular issues.
- The closure of a loophole whereby representative bodies with no full time employees but who conduct lobbying activities could avoid the requirements of the 2015 Act.
- Where representative bodies lobby on behalf of their members, they will now be required to include the names of each member on both the Lobbying Register and in each lobbying return.
- The introduction of an administrative sanction regime for breaches of the 12 month 'cooling-off period' for former designated public officials ("DPOs") seeking to take up a position as a lobbyist or being employed by a lobbyist, and where that individual seeks to lobby the public service body where they previously held the role of DPO. Under the new regime, following an investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission ("SIPO"), a DPO who has breached this cooling-off period may face a fine of up to €25,000 and a two year prohibition from registering as a lobbyist or carrying on lobbying activities. A decision by SIPO to impose a monetary penalty or to seek an order of prohibition against a former DPO for breaches of the cooling-off period must be confirmed by the Circuit Court .
At the Final Stage of the legislative process in the Seanad the text of the legislation was also updated to include amendments to the Oireachtas (Allowances To Members) and Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act 1992 (No. 3), however these updates do not have any impact on the 2015 Act.
While the changes introduced by the 2023 Act do not drastically reshape the regulation of lobbying in Ireland, they do represent further efforts by the government to address the "revolving door" practice and to improve accountability in public office.
Please get in touch with Karen Reynolds, Connor Cassidy or your usual Matheson contact should you require further information in relation to the material referred to in this Insight. Visit our Regulatory Enforcement and Investigations page to stay up to date with the latest updates, articles and briefing notes.