Lobbying Bill will bring much needed transparency and credibility to the sector

Fine Gael Dublin Fingal TD and Member of the Oireachtas Committee for Justice, Defence and Equality, Alan Farrell, today (Wednesday), commended the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin TD, for bringing before the Dáil the Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014.

“The Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014 will address the complete lack of regulation in the lobbying sector in Ireland and it will provide the foundations on which a more transparent and accountable political system can be built.

“I am encouraged by the assurance which Minister Howlin provided to me that anyone who lobbies in relation to the zoning and development of land will fall under the remit of this Bill. The zoning and development of land can have a substantial impact on the economy of a local community, and as such it is vital that any lobbying which takes place on this issue must be regulated. In saying that, it is important to note that all other matters on which a private citizen interacts with their public representative in relation to are exempted from regulation under this Bill. This includes planning matters relating to an individual’s principal private property.

“Lobbying is often seen as a ‘dirty word’ and is synonymous with wrong-doing when it shouldn’t be. It can have a positive impact of political decisions and policy formation. However, as was raised in the Dáil debate on this Bill, sometimes the most effective lobbyist is the person who takes advantage of knowing a public official. For that reason, I am delighted to see the inclusion of a ‘cooling off’ period whereby former holders of designated public offices will have to apply to SIPOC for approval to carry out lobbying activities in an area where there could be a conflict of interest with their previous public sector employment.

“I am cautious about the provision in this Bill which stipulates that companies with less than 10 employees don’t have to register. Perhaps we should consider requiring public officials to ask those with whom they are meeting whether they are representing companies or specific groups. In order to have full accountability, the onus for reporting should not only be on lobbyists themselves, but also on public officials.

“I believe this Bill serves to highlight that this Government is serious about reforming lobbying practices and ensuring that decisions made within the political system all have a minimum level of transparency.