- Operational Parts of Act as at 1st September Parts 1 (Prelim. & General), 2 (Registration), 3 (Code & Guidance) and 5 (Misc.) Effective from the 1st September 2015. Critically Part 4 (enforcement) is not yet in operation (likely to come into effect some time after first review of Act in 2016);
- Relevant communication means any oral or written communication made personally directly or indirectly to a designated public official in relation to a relevant matter, save for certain excepted communications (Section 5 (5) e.g. communications in regard to a person’s private affairs save for planning matters, communications on behalf of a country or territory other than the State, communications on behalf of the EU, UN, etc, communications requesting factual information, communications regarding implementation of policy, etc.);
- Relevant mattermeans any matter relating to the initiation, development or modification of public policy or any public policy programme, the preparation and amendment of an enactment and the award of any grant, loan or financial support, contract or other agreement, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds;
- Designated public officials means Ministers, TDs, members of the European Parliament, local authorities, public servants of a prescribed description as identified in lists to be published by public bodies (see Regulation of Lobbying Act (Designated Public Officials) Regulations (SI 367/2015)). For example, a public servant in Dublin City Council in a position of Chief Executive, Assistant Chief Executive, Director of Services, Head of Finance or Head of Human Resources;
- Lobbying activities means if a person makes any relevant communication about the development or zoning of land under the Planning and Development Acts 2000-2014 or if a person makes or manages or directs the making of any relevant communication on behalf of another person in return for payment / a person makes or manages or directs the making of any relevant communication on behalf of themselves in circumstances where:
- The person has more than 10 full-time employees and the relevant communications are made on the person’s behalf,
- Where the person is a Representative or advocacy body with at least one full time employee;
An example of a lobbying activity would be a petition on behalf of a major hotel to the Minister for Tourism on retaining a VAT rate for the tourism sector and may be registrable. The same petition for a small operator with less than 10 full time employees may not be, if they make the contact themselves, however a petition to Fáilte Ireland which is not a designated public official will avoid registration (see Schedule to Act for bodies that are not public service bodies e.g. CIE, ESB, RTE, An Post, RPA, VHI, etc);
- Registration – A person shall not carry on lobbying activities unless the person is registered and must register within 21 days of the end of the relevant period in which they first start lobbying. The relevant period is the four months ending on the last day of April, August and December in each year e.g. start lobbying between the 1st September and 31st December then you must register by the 21st January and once registered must make a return of lobbying activities within 21 days of the end of a relevant period. To date over 400 organisations or individuals have registered e.g. ACCA Ireland, Air BNB, AIG, An Post, Aviva, AXA, Betfair, CIF, Deloitte, Dublin Chamber of Commerce, Dublin Simon Community, Eircom, Elavon, Glanbia, Ibec, INTO, Irish Cancer Society, IRFU, KBC, KPMG, Lisney, McDonald’s, Musgrave Group, Novartis, Pfizer, Red Flag Consulting Limited, Retail Excellence Ireland, SFA, SVDP, Trócaire, Ulster Bank, and the Vintner’s Federation;
- Returns – Actual communication is not registrable but merely the fact of being made in a general manner must be notified. Typically a return will contain the company / body’s basic details, the details particular to the registered lobbying activity, the type or extent of the lobbying activities carried on, the subject matter of communications and the results that achieved;
- Delayed Communication– where an immediate registration might hamper a company / body, Section 14 provides for delayed publication – application made online;
- Code of Conduct and Guidance – the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) may produce a code of conduct on lobbying activities and guidance notes where necessary;
- Enforcement – contraventions include failing to register, failing to make a return, providing misleading information and obstructing an investigation (Section 19 provides for extensive powers of investigation to include enter and search powers) – fines on summary conviction up to €2,500 and on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years. In addition filing a return late could result in a summary conviction and a fine up to €2,500 but SIPO has discretion in this instance to apply a fixed payment of €200 in lieu of initiating criminal proceedings;
- Restrictions on post-term employment as a lobbyist– a person who was a designated public official cannot engage in lobbying activities for a period of a year after leaving their post without the consent of SIPO (Section 22);
- Appeals Mechanism– there is a an appeals mechanism to challenge decisions of SIPO in relation to matters such as a refusal to consent to lobbying on request pursuant to Section 22 (See Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (Appeals) Regulations 2015 (SI 366/2015).
Our above memo is prepared for general information purposes; it does not purport to provide legal advice. O’Connor solicitors accept no responsibility for losses that may arise from reliance on information contained in this post. It is intended to identify general issues on which you may require legal advice. Full legal advice should be taken from a suitably qualified professional when dealing with particular circumstances.