UPDATE: Lobbying legislation

Posted by Elaine Byrne

Carl O’Brien’s report in today’s Irish Times suggests that the government will implement robust legislation on lobbying. This is very welcome. The policy proposals have yet to released but include:

  • Charities, professional bodies and commercial lobbyists will be on the register of lobbyists
  • A two-year cooling-off period for public servants or ministers before they can work in the private sector
  • A statutory register of lobbyists that would record the dates of all forms of communications
  • A sliding scale of sanctions for lobbyists who fail to disclose details of contacts with decision-makers

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is holding a conference at Farmleigh in July to introduce their Policy Paper on the Regulation of Lobbyists and to provide a forum for discussion. This follows up on a submission process conducted earlier this year.

My Sunday Independent column on lobbyists.

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2 thoughts on “UPDATE: Lobbying legislation

  1. Why is the onus places on the lobbyist to declare contacts with decision makers? Why isn’t the onus on the decision maker too?

    There’s no need to reinvent the wheel and full and proper transparency like Swedish FOI would do more to change mindsets than any number of reports or new laws or regulations.

    How will the new legislation deal with the big bog deals and strokes that are arranged on the golf course? All those nods and winks between Hogan and Kenny and God knows who else – are we really meant to believe FG isn’t as sleazy as FF in this regard?

    FG can’t even be honest enough to show who funded its front bench offices over the years.

  2. This is all fine and dandy, but the lobbyists are merely agents. The real problem is that most of the principals, who hire these agents, are already within the tent and have direct access to governing politicians and policy-makers. The principals fall into two categories: those already well ensconced within the tent and those who have some access but would not see themselves, or be perceived, as being within the tent.

    The former need the PR to make a bit of noise in public in an attempt to generate some public support and legitimacy for the case they are making behind closed doors. Though it is often the case that there are significant public interest-harming differences between the case they are pushing in public and what they are discussing behind closed doors. The latter hire these agents both to secure some access to governing politicians and policy-makers and to make some public noise in support of their case.

    These proposed reforms will actually hurt the latter, but they won’t touch the former – and these are the real ‘enemy within’.

    Elsewhere I have highlighted the institutional failure of the ESRI exposed in its treatment of the Tol et al working paper:
    https://politicalreform.ie/2012/06/07/confessions-of-a-demoralised-political-scientist/comment-page-1/#comment-9473

    The extent of the institutional failure is increased by the presence and activities of this ‘enemy within’ – and the extent to which they have captured large swathes of government and the exapnsive goverment apparatus.

    But it’s obviously much more convenient for Official Ireland to focus on the symptoms rather than the cause of the malaise. It’s a sophisticated version of the ‘three monkeys’ act’ with self-selected impairment of the relevant faculties.

    It will not be possible to sustain this act indefinitely and Official Ireland would be wise to bear that in mind.

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