Regulation of Lobbyists in Ireland
Posted on February 29, 2012
Lobbying is a topic which has deservedly received a lot of attention during the informal inquest into mistakes made during the boom years, but which has seen very little change in practice, until now.
Today is the last day of public consultations for Minister Howlin's proposed regulation of lobbyists, and after campaigning successfully to have a similar register enforced here in Brussels, I made a submission to the minister on how this process could continue in Ireland.Read a copy of my submission here
Since June 2011, a 'joint-transparency register' has been in practice between the European Commission and European Parliament, controlling which groups are given access to politicians in the two institutions.
As part of the process, a website has also been set up where members of the public can visit and see who is trying to influence the EU agenda and roughly how much money they are spending. http://europa.eu/transparency-register/index_en.htm
Some of the results are astonishing – if you take a company like Shell, you can see that they spent half a million euro on lobbying in the EU in 2010 and they are far from the only ones spending hundreds of thousands of euro on lobbying every year.
In my submission to Min. Howlin, I make the point that if the Dáil were to introduce rules that mean only lobbyists who meet people in Government buildings have to register, it is likely that significant lobbying will continue away from the public eye.
This is why a register of Irish lobbyists and a code of conduct for lobbying must be introduced, and also why it must seek to include companies and interest groups who engage in lobbying tactics regardless of the location.
Some of the key points in my submission are as follows:
- For TDs, Senators, Ministers and senior civil servants in Leinster House to keep a record of who they meet for official business and offer a more complete picture to the public. In this, I refer the Minister to own meetings diary on my website www.nessachilders.ie.
- For registration to be quick and easy, in order to incentivise and facilitate lobby groups.
- For any register of lobbyists to be published online.
- For a mechanism where people can report lobbyists they suspect are in breach of regulation, and random inspections of such companies instigated, with penalties for those in breach of Transparency regulations.
This legislation is much needed and long overdue. It is the first step on the road to regaining public confidence in the policy-making process, but one which is essential to ensuring that the large-scale country-club and race-meet lobbying that hampered us during the boom doesn't happen again.