Sipo legislation to be reviewed following Michael D’Arcy case, Taoiseach tells Dáil

Tánaiste says ex-minister should have contacted Sipo before taking private sector role

Publicly available returns show that Micahel D’Arcy was lobbied directly by the IAIM in 2017.

Publicly available returns show that Micahel D’Arcy was lobbied directly by the IAIM in 2017.

 

A review of legislation governing the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) is to be carried out in the wake of Michael D’Arcy case, the Taoiseach has told the Dáil.

The controversy over the move by Mr D’Arcy, a former minister of State, to a new role with the Irish Association of Investment Managers (IAIM) continued on Tuesday with criticism from Opposition politicians and complaints being lodge with Sipo.

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.

It also emerged on Tuesday that Mr D’arcy, who did not contact Sipo prior to announcing his move, has now contacted Sipo.

In the Dáil on Tuesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he believed there should be an effective cooling off period. Mr Martin said he was “not happy or in any way comfortable” with people taking up position in an area they had responsibility for immediately before, or recently.

“Any cooling off period should be one that has the force of law” and has sanctions attached to it, he said.

“I don’t approve of a former minister going in to a post he had responsibility for as an office holder,” Mr Martin said.

In a statement at lunchtime Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said it “is appropriate for any such individual, whether that’s a former minister or any other relevant person, to engage with Sipo on matters such as this.”

“I believe he should have contacted Sipo prior to taking up his position. I am however glad that this contact has now taken place.

“I had no knowledge of this matter prior to Sunday afternoon when Mr D’arcy called me to say he had resigned from the Seanad and has accepted a role in the private sector,” Mr Varadkar said.

Before the Taoiseach’s announcement in the Dáil, Opposition figures said Mr D’Arcy’s move undermined rules on a “cooling-off period”, which requires a year-long gap between certain politicians and senior officials leaving office and taking up a position in a related private-sector field.

Earlier on Tuesday, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he had concerns over Mr D’Arcy’s move and felt his Coalition partners shared his concern t.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the Minster for Climate Action said: “I expressed my concern to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and I think they share my concern.”

Mr Ryan said Sipo will examine the appointment but he felt there needed to be a gap in timelines between being a minister and taking on a new role. “There are laws and regulations, it is up to Sipo to oversee them.”

Asked if the Taoiseach Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael shared his concern about the appointment, Mr Ryan said: “Yes I think our partners in Government are also concerned.”

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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