Plan to strengthen lobbying law ‘the right thing to do’, says Hayes

Changes follow switch made by Michael D’Arcy last year

Brian Hayes, CEO Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, who says he agreed with the changes being made to th Lobbying Act. File photograph: Alan Betson

Brian Hayes, CEO Banking & Payments Federation Ireland, who says he agreed with the changes being made to th Lobbying Act. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

Former politician Brian Hayes, now the chief executive of the Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland (BPFI), has said the strengthening of the laws around former ministers becoming lobbyists is “the right thing to do”.

The Cabinet yesterday proposed to amend lobbying laws to make it an offence to breach the one-year “cooling-off” rule for Ministers and senior Government officials after they depart office.

It comes after a review of the Lobbying Act prompted controversy after former minister of State for financial services Michael D’Arcy left politics to head the Irish Association of Investment Managers (IAIM).

Mr D’Arcy, who was a Fine Gael minister of State in the Department of Finance up until June 2020, left his subsequent role as a senator last year to take up the job with the IAIM.

The cooling-off term bans such people for lobbying for a year and the obligation can only be varied by a decision of the Standards in Public Office Commission.

When appointing Mr D’Arcy, the IAIM said it had legal advice that the appointment did not breach rules.

Mr Hayes was also a former Fine Gael minister of State at the Department of Finance but he left to become an MEP in 2014. The cooling-off period did not apply to him, since he had not been a minister for five years before.

Having brought the proposal to Cabinet, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath said: “The public want to be reassured that government policy is formulated in an open and transparent way.”

Clear rules about lobbying are essential, he said, where people know “who is talking to whom about what”, but which also allows the State’s system to be able to hear voices that should be heard.

‘Public concern’

“Public concern had arisen in relation to former ministers and advisers taking up lobbying roles soon after leaving office. I am taking action to address this issue,” he said.

The changes now accepted would ensure that the State has a system “that is up to date, open, accountable and enforceable” and that will “ enhance public confidence”, he said.

Legislation will come before the Dáil later this year, he said, adding that failure to comply with the cooling-off period will be deemed an offence subject to an “appropriate sanction”.