Home Knowledge Second Phase of Legislation Amending Lobbying Act Now In Force

Second Phase of Legislation Amending Lobbying Act Now In Force

The Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (Amendment Act) strengthens the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (Principal Act) and came into operation on a phased basis over 2024.  An overview of the phased commencement is available in our previous article here.

The remaining provisions of the Amendment Act came into force on 1 June 2024. These provisions introduce a new administrative sanctions regime for breaches of the anti-avoidance provisions, and the  “cooling off” period governed by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) and the introduction of new Circuit Court procedures.

SIPO will operate the new administrative sanctions system in respect of certain “relevant contraventions”. As noted above, such sanctions may be imposed for a breach of the anti-avoidance clause under section 18(f) or the cooling-off obligations on designated public officials (DPOs). The latter prevents former DPOs from continuing to conduct lobbying activities for one year after they cease to be DPOs.

The sanctions may be “major” or “minor,” both of which are defined terms under section 22A. Major sanctions can include a fine of up to €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, or a combination of all.  In determining the amount of the fine, SIPO can set it at a limit to ensure that it acts as a deterrent to avoid similar contraventions occurring in the future. Major sanctions must be confirmed by the Circuit Court before they take effect. The delayed commencement of these provisions allowed SIPO to develop the appropriate processes to ensure their efficient operation and increase awareness around lobbying activities.

Minor sanctions can include advice, a reprimand, caution or a combination of all.

Concluding remarks

1 June 2024 marked the final phase of amendments to the Principal Act.  The most significant include the introduction of an enforcement provision for a breach by DPOs of the cooling off periods and the new sanctions regime, which will be operated by SIPO but subject to a level of oversight by the Circuit Court.

For further information, please contact Laura Murdock or your usual William Fry contact.

Contributed by Hannah Garvey