Lobbying Reform to take effect in 2024
Key modifications to the regulation of lobbying in Ireland will commence in 2024 following the publication on 7 November 2023 of a commencement order to give effect to the provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (the “Lobbying Amendment Act”).
As discussed in our previous briefing the Lobbying Amendment Act strengthens and amends the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the “2015 Act”), by expanding its scope and enhancing enforcement.
The lobbying provisions of the Lobbying Amendment Act will come into operation on a phased basis as follows:
1 January 2024: Certain amendments to the scope of the 2015 Act including the extension of the 2015 Act to a person ‘who makes, or manages, or directs the making of, any relevant communications about the development or zoning of land under the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2021’ take effect from 1 January 2024. Representative organisations and advocacy bodies may also qualify as a lobbyist from 1 January 2024, even if they do not have employees, if any of its members qualify as a lobbyist.
From 1 January 2024, a lobbyist will be required, for the purposes of the lobbying register, to provide details of where they carry out their main activities, or if there is no such address, the address at which they ordinarily reside.
The requirements for public service bodies to ensure designated public officials are aware of their obligations under section 22 of the 2015 Act and to provide specified information to the Standards in Public Office Commission (“SIPO”) in the event a relevant designated public official leaves employment, an office or position in that public service body also take effect on 1 January 2024.
Each of sections 1-8, 11, 12, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 25 of the Lobbying Amendment Act will come into operation on 1 January 2024.
The Department of Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform indicated that the timing of the commencement is to afford SIPO time to update the lobbying register and associated guidance and to ensure lobbyists are informed of the legislative changes.
1 June 2024: Key provisions pertaining to anti-avoidance, the new administrative sanctions regime and the enhanced enforcement of the “cooling-off period” for former public officials discussed in detail in our previous briefing will come into operation on 1 June 2024. The relevant provisions are sections 9, 10 and 13-18 of the Lobbying Amendment Act.
The timing of the commencement is, according to the Department, designed to afford SIPO time “to develop the processes to ensure the efficient operation of the new sanctions and to conduct awareness raising activities with lobbyists and relevant designated public officials.”
We will watch with interest, and share our insights on, the practical operation of the reforms introduced to the regulation of lobbying in Ireland.
Should you have any queries in relation to the Lobbying Amendment Act, please do not hesitate to contact Deirdre O’Mahony or any member of our Corporate Crime Group