Where an individual or organisation is involved in lobbying activities, they must comply with the requirement to file returns with the Standards in Public Office Commission. Failure to file a return can result in fines and potentially a term of imprisonment of up to two years for office holders, directors, managers, and others involved in running the organisation. The next return deadline is 21 May 2023.
The key requirement of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (Act) is to require anyone carrying on lobbying activities which are directed at an Irish Designated Public Official (DPO) to register on the online lobbying register, available at www.lobbying.ie. Once registered, individuals or organisations carrying out lobbying activities must make returns three times each year, usually on 21 January, 21 May and 21 September.
It is a criminal offence to carry on lobbying activities if not registered. Once registered, failure to make the required returns is also a criminal offence.
To determine if you are engaged in reportable lobbying, the following three-part test applies:
Do any of the following describe you or your organisation?
- An employer with more than 10 employees where the communications are made on your behalf
- A representative body with at least one employee and the communication is made by a paid employee or officer of the body
- An advocacy group with at least one employee and the communication is made by a paid employee or officer of the body
- A third party being paid to communicate on behalf of any of the above
- A person communicating on the development or zoning of land
Are you communicating with a Designated Public Official?
Certain public officials are identified in the Act as DPOs. These include:
- Government Ministers,
- Members of the Irish Parliament (TDs) and their special advisors
- Members of the European Parliament for Irish constituencies
- Senators, and various public servants
Any direct communication with a DPO may be a reportable communication, regardless of the method of communication.
Does the communication relate to a “relevant matter”?
“Relevant matters” relate to:
- The initiation, development or modification of any public policy or of any public programme
- The preparation or amendment of an enactment, or
- The award of any grant, loan or other financial support, contract or other agreement, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds.
There are limited exceptions to the application of “relevant matters”, for example, communications requesting factual information or providing factual information in response to a request for the information.
If the elements of the above test apply to you or your organisation, you may be required to register and make lobbying returns.
It is important to note that the legislation does not make any distinction as to the method, or formality of a relevant communication. These requirements also apply to individuals and organisations based outside of Ireland, provided they are carrying out lobbying activities in Ireland.
Organisations carrying out lobbying activities should note the obligations imposed on them by the Act and be aware that failure to comply may result in criminal prosecution.
If you have any concerns surrounding your obligations with regard to your lobbying activities, or if you are wondering whether you need to make a return before 21 January 2023, the Public, Regulatory & Investigations team are happy to assist
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.