The Order commencing the Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (Amendment Act) has been published.
The Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (Commencement) Order 2023 (Commencement Order) provides for a phased commencement of the Amendment Act.
As discussed in our previous article, the Amendment Act aims to strengthen the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (Principal Act), by closing existing loopholes and increasing transparency.
Under the Commencement Order, the following amended provisions of the Principal Act commence on 1 January 2024:
- extending the definition of lobbying activities to include relevant communications about the development or zoning of land (section 5(1)(c))
- extending the scope of the Principal Act to include representative bodies and issue-based organisations with no full-time employees (section 5(2)(d) and (e))
- bringing within the scope of the Principal Act, any office holder who conducts lobbying activities, regardless of whether the office holder is remunerated (section 5(3))
- the requirement for a person applying for inclusion on the Lobbying Register, to provide the address where they conduct their “main activities” (section 5(1)(b)), and the name of every person who is a member of a representative body or issue-based organisation with no full-time employees (section 5(1)(aa)
- amendments to the restrictions on post-term employment as a lobbyist (Cooling-Off Obligations), such that prior consent from the Standards in Public Office Commission (Commission) is required to waive the cooling-off provisions (section 22(1))
- requirement for public service bodies to inform every person who is a relevant designated public official (DPO) of the Cooling-Off Obligations under section 22 when taking up and leaving that position (section 22(6)).
New Relevant Contraventions and Sanctions Regime
The new section 22A of the Principal Act on relevant contraventions comes into operation on 1 June 2024. This creates new “relevant contraventions” including where a person engages in lobbying activity when that person is marked as having ceased to carry on such activities (section 18(a)); and where a DPO contravenes the Cooling-Off Provisions (section 18(g)).
The new sanctions regime of administrative sanctions comes into force on 1 June 2024. From that date, administrative sanctions can be imposed by the Commission for a breach of the newly created anti-avoidance clause under section 18(f) and a breach of the Cooling-Off Obligations. The follow-on sections 22B to 22E also apply from 1 June 2024. These concern financial sanctions, appeals to the Circuit Court and the requirement for the Circuit Court to confirm “major” sanctions. A major sanction is any combination of a financial sanction not exceeding €25,000, a prohibition from registering on the Lobbying Register for up to two years; or a prohibition on making a return for no more than two years (section 22A(13)).
Finally, with effect from 1 June 2024, the Commission must publish a code for the conduct of investigations under section 19, and the conduct or proceedings before it under sections 22A to 22E. The Commission may make regulations regarding the conduct of those investigations and proceedings (section 22F) to address fairness and conflicts of interest that may arise.
The following table sets out the commencement dates of the relevant provisions of the Amendment Act:
|Date of commencement||Section of Amendment Act||Corresponding Section of the Principal Act affected|
|1 January 2024||Sections 1 to 8|
Sections 11 and 12
Sections 19 to 23
|Sections 2, 4 5, 7, 8, 11,12
Sections 21 and 22
Sections 22G, 23, 25, 26, Schedule
Short Title and commencement
|1 June 2024||Sections 9 and 10|
Sections 13 to 18
|Sections 18 and 20
Section 22A, 22B, 22C, 22D, 22E, 22F
To discuss the impact of the new provisions on your business or your obligations under the Principal Act, please contact Laura Murdock or your usual William Fry contact.
Contributed by Gail Nohilly