The Oireachtas finance committee is to discuss bringing the State’s political ethics watchdog before it in the wake of controversy over former minister of State Michael D’Arcy’s move into the private sector.
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness, the committee chairman, said it may also invite Mr D’Arcy in to address it on the matter.
The former Fine Gael TD for Wexford has confirmed that he is taking up a position with financial services lobby group the Irish Association of Investment Managers (IAIM).
Policy towards the funds sector would be overseen by the Department of Finance, where Mr D'Arcy was the minister of State until earlier this year.
The move sparked controversy, with Opposition figures saying it undermined rules on a “cooling-off period”, which enforces a year-long gap between some politicians and senior officials leaving office and taking up a position in a related private-sector field.
“Generally speaking what people want to know is whether the guidelines are robust enough to deal with what is happening now,” Mr McGuinness said.
He said bringing the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) into the committee, or asking it to make a submission would “give people confidence that what’s been put in place is workable”.
The cooling-off period, which was brought in in 2015, applies to lobbying activity undertaken by the individual concerned, or by the organisation for whom they are going to work. It can be varied by Sipo, but only after it is notified of the intended move by the party concerned. Mr D’Arcy did not contact Sipo prior to making his move.
A spokeswoman for the IAIM said it had obtained legal advice that the appointment was not in breach of the lobbying act, and said that neither the organisation nor Mr D’Arcy will be engaging in lobbying activities for a year.
Guidance on the Sipo website says it is the responsibility of a former designated public official, such as Mr D’Arcy, to seek consent from Sipo “prior to taking up an offer of employment”.
Even if no lobbying is taking place, if the person considers there is a possibility that their obligations under the act might be triggered, they should make contact with the commission before accepting the offer of employment.
Fine Gael under fire
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald criticised Mr D’Arcy’s move, saying it was “clearly wrong”.
“The idea that we have a revolving door for politicians becoming lobbyists and in this case working for an organisation that actively lobbied him as a minister is hugely problematic,” she said.
Labour finance spokesman Ged Nash said the spirit of the rules were being undermined and called on Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar to give his views on “the revolving door connecting his party and the financial services industry”, a reference to former minister of State and MEP Brian Hayes, who is now a banking industry lobbyist.
Publicly available returns show that Mr D’Arcy was lobbied directly by the IAIM in 2017, while he was working as minister of State for financial services.
The organisation had a meeting with him and an adviser about several issues, including a controversial tax break scheme for well-remunerated executives, the Special Assignee Relief Programme.