The Lobbying register: facilitating transparency or allowing policy influence ‘under the radar’?

By Nuala Haughey
Almost fifteen years after the idea was first proposed in a Labour Party private members’ Bill, Ireland is due to get a mandatory lobbying register.
The online database will capture information about the efforts of interest groups and professional lobbyists alike to influence policy and legislation. The database is provided for in the Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014 which is currently before the Oireachtas. Groups and individuals who lobby will have to register with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and file lobbying returns three times a year.
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In elections it’s not just how votes are counted that matters

The first annual report of the highly influential Electoral Integrity Project has just been published (see here). Professor Pippa Norris and her colleagues have carried out an extensive survey of the electoral process across the world’s democracies over the past few years. Ireland’s last election (2011) preceded this project so it was not included on this occasion, but as the work of this project continues, our next election will come under scrutiny. Continue reading

Political parties, like other public bodies, need to have their accounts fully audited

The ongoing standoff between the Minister for the Environment and the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is yet another signal of just how much this government has backtracked on its supposed commitment to open government.

At the heart of this issue is what level of party accounts should be made available for auditing and public scrutiny. The Minister (and in fairness, it seems all the other parties with him – I stand ready to be corrected on this ☺) is of the view that the legislation (the Electoral (Political Funding) Act, 2012) requires that the parties need to only audit their national accounts. SIPO disagrees. As a letter this week from the outgoing SIPO Chair (published on their website here) makes clear their legal advice, on the contrary, is that the auditing should also extend to the sub-national units (i.e. the party branches) of the parties’ organizations. Continue reading

A political system friendly to independents but not to new parties

jfoley11aEvery day there is some opinion piece or other speculating about the possibility of a new political party emerging in Ireland. Journalistic eyes are peeled, watching every movement, signal or nuance from the likes of Lucinda Creighton, Michael McDowell, or any other obvious contenders seen as most likely to lead the way in establishing a new party. But how our political system is set up makes life very difficult for ambitious individuals aspiring to establish a new party. By contrast, it’s very easy for ambitious individuals wanting to run for office as independents. Continue reading

Ministerial responsibility, policy design and implementation

At a conference in the IPA recently there was some talk about changes in how ministers and civil servants are held accountable, and for what they are held accountable. The traditional doctrine of ministerial responsibility, set out in the Ministers and Secretaries Act 1924, hold the minister to be the Corporation Sole, so s/he is legally responsible for every action of the department. This is obviously not very realistic and few would subscribe to the view of the UK Health Secretary Aneurin Bevan that the sound of a bedpan falling in his local hospital should reverberate in the Palace of Westminster.

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Let’s think about the type of inquiry that will work before we set one up

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The current calls for some form of inquiry into the economic collapse and the government’s response to it are understandable in the light of the Anglo tapes. While they probably didn’t reveal much that we hadn’t already suspected, their tone was abhorrent to most. What is not reasonable is that we concentrate our blame on the banks for the debacle. They were probably doing what any interest group does when looking for government assistance – they bluff. Continue reading