The Uber Files timeline: How the company lobbied the Irish government to approve its business model

Between 2014 and 2017 the cab-hailing company engaged in intensive but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to seek regulatory change to permit it to operate in Ireland


February 2014

Uber begins operations in Ireland eight months after its Irish subsidiary Uber Ireland Technologies Limited is incorporated.


May 7th, 2014

John Moran resigns as Department of Finance secretary general two years after taking the job. Michael Noonan, then minister for finance, says he accepts his resignation “with great regret”. Moran later sets up a private consultancy business called Red House Hill International.


February 2015

Uber is struggling to make inroads with the State’s taxi regulator, the National Transport Authority, which is unwilling to engage with the company about loosening rules to allow Uber to operate. Having “reached a block” with the regulator, the company turns its attention to the Irish government and the upcoming St Patrick’s Day visits by ministers to the US. It identifies the opportunity as a way to “to build goodwill and strengthen our relationship with the Irish government — essential to growing our business, given the lack of co-operation of the regulator”.


April 2015

Andrew Byrne, Uber’s head of public policy for the UK and Ireland, tells colleagues that the company is considering opening a service centre in Ireland, outside Dublin, and wants “to use it to get some political leverage”. He believes Uber “can make a big splash” and asks colleagues for suggestions “on how we get maximum impact” with a view to getting its message across about the Irish regulations with taoiseach Enda Kenny and minister for transport Paschal Donohoe. Ann Kelly, an outside lobbyist working for Uber, tells Byrne that setting up outside Dublin is a “positive political decision” and will give local and national leverage as Kenny is from Co Mayo.

READ MORE

August 2015

Uber decides to hire John Moran to work for the firm as a consultant, seeing him as a “political adviser” to Uber’s general manager in Ireland Kieran Harte.


September-December 2015

The State’s lobbying register shows Moran lobbies Noonan, minister for transport Paschal Donohoe, minister for education Richard Bruton, and Donohoe’s special adviser Stephen Lynam on behalf of Uber for the first time in this period, holding between two and five meetings. The register says he discussed “opportunities to launch new Uber services in Ireland” with the intention to make “regulation flexible enough to allow new innovation for Uber’s logistic platform”.


November 16th, 2015

Uber announces its intention to start a pilot ride-sharing service in areas of the country suffering a “transport desert”, predominantly in the west or south of the country.


November 20th, 2015

Uber submits a proposal to the Department of Transport for a ride-sharing pilot in Limerick city.


December 14th, 2015

Department of Transport rejects Uber’s ride-sharing pilot plan for Limerick. Uber executive Mark MacGann describes the rejection as “disappointing” in internal emails with colleagues and says that it is “now time to get political” and for John Moran “to earn his keep”.


January 7th, 2016

Moran says in emails with Uber executives that has made proposals to the taoiseach’s economic adviser, Andrew McDowell, about the inclusion of supportive language about the “sharing economy” — the space in which Uber operates — in Fine Gael’s manifesto for the upcoming general election. Moran also talks about dropping a note about the benefits of the broader sharing economy into the Limerick home of Noonan, his former boss at the Department of Finance, “without it forming part of the official [departmental] records”, in advance of the opening of an Uber service centre in the city. He suggests the briefing note should say that “changing the rules may require considerable innovation and urgency at the level of transport officials/regulatory system”.


January 11th, 2016

Noonan officially opens Uber’s “Centre of Excellence” on Thomas Street in Limerick. The company says it has invested more than €4 million in the city. The centre employs 100 people. Noonan says that when the centre is fully operational it will employ 300 people. Uber says it plans to seek permission to run its proposed pilot ride-sharing scheme in Limerick.


January 21st, 2016

Moran tells Uber’s Andrew Byrne that he has checked with McDowell who confirmed that a reference to the “sharing economy” would be part of Fine Gael’s election manifesto.


February 14th, 2016: Fine Gael publishes the election manifesto which contains a commitment to develop “The Sharing Economy” with a reference to “new platforms ... being developed that allow everyone to earn extra income in this sharing economy” and a plan to publish a “National Sharing Economy Statement” to be developed by various government departments.

Fine Gael 20016 election manifesto was cited in the Uber Files ICIJ investigation

February 15th, 2016

Moran emails Uber executives about the FG manifesto, telling them that they will “recognise the text”.


May 20th, 2016

Briefing documents prepared by civil servants for the new minister for transport Shane Ross, an Independent TD in the new Fine Gael-led government, emerge showing officials in the department strongly advising the minister not to facilitate Uber’s services in Ireland. Officials tell the minster that it is difficult to see how Uber “could rationally co-exist with the existing system of regulation for taxis, hackneys and limousines.”


May 22nd, 2016

Uber’s Irish chief Kieran Harte publicly criticises the Department of Transport over the background briefing to the new minister, saying that it was “disappointing that some civil servants haven’t looked outside of Ireland to see how this is being successfully achieved”.


June 9th, 2017

The regulator finally rules that Uber will not be permitted to operate a private car-sharing service in Ireland. Hugh Creegan, director of taxi regulation at the National Transport Authority, tells Uber in a letter that it is not supportive of its plans to run a pilot scheme in Limerick or ride-sharing in Dublin. He says operating parallel regulated and non-regulated entities, even on a pilot basis, is “undesirable” and would undermine the regulated transport system.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent