Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is designed to provide information to the public about lobbying activities and its aim is to make the process of lobbying more transparent. The Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of a publicly accessible register of lobbying.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (The Standards Commission) is the regulator of lobbying. Anyone who fulfils the definition of a lobbyist must register and must provide information about their activities on a regular basis. If they are professional lobbyists, they must provide information about their clients. They are also obliged to conform to a code of conduct (the Transparency Code) about their activities.
Definition of a lobbyist – For the purposes of the Act a person is considered to be carrying on lobbying activities if the person:
- Makes, or manages or directs the making of, any relevant communications on behalf of another person in return for payment (in money or money’s worth) in any of the circumstances in which subsection (2) applies to that other person.
- Makes, or manages or directs the making of, any relevant communications in any of the circumstances in which subsection (2) applies to the person.
- Makes any relevant communications about the development or zoning of land under the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2014.
Subsection (2) is relevant if the person has:
- More than 10 full-time employees and the relevant communications are made on the person’s behalf,
- One or more full-time employees and is a body which exists primarily to represent the interests of its members and the relevant communications are made on behalf of any of the members
- One or more full-time employees and is a body which exists primarily to take up particular issues and the relevant communications are made in the furtherance of any of those issues.
Persons precluded from lobbying for a ‘cooling-off’ period:
- Some former government officials/senior civil servants are precluded from taking up employment as professional lobbyists or engaging in lobbying activity for a ‘cooling-off’ period of one year from the date on which they cease engagement in one of the designated occupations.
- These are Ministers and Ministers of State; TDs and Senators; MEPs for constituencies in the Republic of Ireland; Members of local authorities; Special Advisers to ministers and/or government departments; Secretaries General and Assistant Secretaries in the Civil Service and Chief Executive Officers and Directors of Services in Local Authorities.
- The above list may be extended by Ministerial Order to other categories over time. Public bodies will publish a list of Designated Public Officials within their organisations on their individual organisation websites from 1 September 2015.
Excepted or Exempted communications
The following are ‘Excepted or Exempted Communications’ according to the Act and are not, therefore, regarded as lobbying activities:
- Diplomatic relations: Communications by or on behalf of a foreign country or territory, the European Union, the United Nations or other international intergovernmental organisations.
- Factual information: Communications requesting factual information or providing factual information in response to a request for the information.
- Published submissions: Communications requested by a public service body and published by it.
- Trade union negotiations: Communications forming part of, or directly related to, negotiations on terms and conditions of employment undertaken by representatives of a trade union on behalf of its members.
- Safety and security: Communications the disclosure of which could pose a threat to the safety of any person or to the security of the State.
- Oireachtas committees: Communications which are made in proceedings of a committee of either House of the Oireachtas.
- Communications by designated public officials or public servants: Communications by a designated public official in his or her capacity as such; communications by public servants (or those engaged on contract by a public service body) made in that capacity and relating to the functions of the public service body.
- Governance of commercial state bodies: Communications by or on behalf of a commercial state body made to a Minister who holds shares in, or has statutory functions in relation to, the body, or to designated public officials serving in the Minister’s department, and which are made in the ordinary course of the business of the body.
- Policy working groups: Communications between members of a relevant body appointed by a Minister, or by a public service body, for the purpose of reviewing, assessing or analysing any issue of public policy with a view to reporting to the Minister or public service body on it.
- Private affairs: Communications by or on behalf of an individual relating to his or her private affairs about any matter other than the development or zoning of any land apart from the individual’s principal private residence.
The Standards Commission has the power under the Act to investigate complaints and to bring prosecutions against offenders. Successful prosecutions will subject the offender(s) to a fine and/or a term of imprisonment.