Regulation of lobbying in Ireland is set to change on 1 January 2024. Our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team examines the new rules, and the impact they will have on those who engage in lobbying activities.
Ireland’s lobbying rules are set out in the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (2015 Act). We previously covered the 2015 Act’s requirements for certain bodies that lobby Designated Public Officials (DPOs) to be registered and to file regular returns summarising their lobbying activities.
The Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (2023 Act) broadens the application of the 2015 Act, by requiring a wider variety of bodies to register and file returns. The key changes are:
- The extension of the definition of lobbying itself as it relates to the development and zoning of land
- The enhancement of provisions which limit the activities of Designated Public Officials (DPOs) once they leave office, and
- The introduction of an administrative sanctions regime administered by the Commission on Standards in Public Office (the Commission)
Changes effective from 1 January 2024
- A body that exists primarily to represent members or take up particular issues may come within the regime even when it has no employees. Informal business groups will be brought within the scope of the 2015 Act, particularly bodies formed to represent the interests of their members and bodies that are established mainly to take up specific issues. These bodies will be brought within the scope of the 2015 Act where at least one member of the body would be classified as carrying out lobbying activities if they were acting solely on their own behalf. The 2023 Act requires all of these bodies when registering to list the names of all members.
- The definition of lobbying relating to the development or zoning of land will be extended to apply not just to a person who makes a relevant communication concerning development or zoning but also anyone who “manages or directs the making of” such a communication.
- The 2023 Act permits bodies to temporarily deregister where it has ceased lobbying activities, removing the administrative burden of continuing to submit nil returns. Bodies may recommence lobbying activities and shall notify the Commission accordingly and its obligations to submit lobbying returns will resume.
Changes effective 1 June 2024
The 2023 Act provides for additional offences and an administrative sanctions regime.
- It will be an offence where a registered body has been indicated on the lobbying register to have ceased carrying out lobbying activities yet continues to carry out these activities. Committal of this offence may result in a class C fine on summary conviction, or a fine and/or imprisonment for up to two years on indictment.
- Under the administrative sanctions regime, a minor sanction could result in advice, caution and/or reprimand. However, a major sanction could result in a fine of up to €25,000, a prohibition from registering on the lobbying register for up to two years and/or a prohibition on making, or having a return made for up to two years.
- A major sanction must be confirmed by the Circuit Court.
- A person who takes an action intending to avoid or circumvent their registration or filing obligations may be subject to a minor or major sanction, following an investigation.
- Where a former DPO has failed to seek the consent of the Commission to engage in lobbying activities within one year of leaving their DPO post, or has breached conditions that were attached to the consent of the Commission, this may be subject to a minor or major sanction.
Those currently on the lobbying register, as well as those who are not registered but have regular contact with DPOs, should consider the upcoming changes, particularly those to be commenced on 1 January 2024.
For more information on lobbying requirements, contact a member of our Public, Regulatory & Investigations team
People also ask
What is the Regulation of Lobbying Act Ireland?
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is designed to provide information to the public about who is lobbying, on whose behalf lobbying is carried out and the issues involved in lobbying.
When are changes to lobbying rules effective?
Changes to lobbying rules will be effective from 1 January 2024. A further set of changes will be effective from 1 June 2024.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.