Lobbyists Zoom in to get their message across to Ministers

Virtual meetings set to become the norm as Covid-19 restricts face-to-face contact

A photograph posted to Leo Varadkar’s Twitter account showing him in a virtual meeting last month with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella

A photograph posted to Leo Varadkar’s Twitter account showing him in a virtual meeting last month with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella

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Organisations turned to video-calling app Zoom and other ways to virtually “meet” Ministers and other public officials after the Covid-19 crisis rendered face-to-face meetings and non-essential travel impossible, the latest returns to the lobbying register show.

Business group Ibec was among those to participate in virtual meetings as discussions unfolded in relation to the Government’s wage subsidy scheme, the difficulties facing the retail sector and, later, its plans to reopen the economy.

RTÉ, which has sought emergency funding, specifically cited the use of Zoom, with director-general Dee Forbes, new RTÉ chief financial officer Richard Collins and Minister for Communications Richard Bruton among those taking part in a conference call on the popular app on April 8th.

Mr Collins also participated in a second Zoom call on April 21st with senior officials from the Department of Communications.

High-profile

The returns to the Register of Lobbying ahead of the May 21st deadline cover the period from January to the end of April. One high-profile video meeting during that time included Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella on April 30th on the role of technology in supporting economic recovery from the Covid-19 lockdowns. Mr Varadkar tweeted a photograph of himself on the day listening to Mr Nadella via video link.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson chairing a Covid-19 meeting by Zoom, after self-isolating after testing positive for the Coronavirus. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street/PA Wire
UK prime minister Boris Johnson chairing a Covid-19 meeting by Zoom. File photograph: Andrew Parsons/Crown Copyright/10 Downing Street/PA Wire

Virtual roundtables, webcasts and video calls are expected to continue amid ongoing social distancing guidelines and a flurry of economic concerns as the lockdown exit plan proceeds.

Not all group calls involved staring at a screen, however. Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys has posted a series of images to Twitter showing she favours the more traditional audio conference call in her communications with representative bodies, agencies and interest groups.

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