Ex-ministers to face tougher sanctions for breaching lobbying rules

Under new rules it will be an offence not to comply with so-called ‘cooling-off’ rules after ministers and senior officials leave office

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: he said  he was “not happy” with people taking up jobs in areas where they previously had a political role. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: he said he was “not happy” with people taking up jobs in areas where they previously had a political role. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

 

Political Reporter Ex-ministers and high-ranking officials will face tougher sanctions for breaching lobbying rules once they leave office under plans to be considered by the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Ministers will be briefed on a review of the Lobbying Act, prompted by controversy after former minister of State for financial services Michael D’Arcy left to head the Irish Association of Investment Managers.

Under changes proposed by Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath , it will be an offence not to comply with so-called “cooling-off” rules after ministers and senior officials leave office.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) had previously sought sanctions, pointing to examples where it has previously been satisfied that rules had been breached, but it had no powers to act.

The changes will extend the legislation’s scope to govern unpaid lobbying by individuals.

Bodies that lobby but do not have employees, such as representative organisations, must register too, while members will have to be named on lobbying returns to ensure that proper records are kept.

Mr D’Arcy’s appointment to the investment managers’ association later saw Taoiseach Micheál Martin saying that he was “not happy” with people taking up jobs in areas where they previously had a political role.

“Any cooling-off period should be one that has the force of law” and has sanctions attached to it, he then told the Dáil. “I don’t approve of a former minister going into a post he had responsibility for as an office-holder.”

An earlier version of this article stated changes planned under this legislation would make it an offence to fail to register or submit lobbying returns to Sipo. This was already an offence under existing legislation.