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Ministers who breach 'cooling-off' period before lobbying could soon be fined €25k

There was controversy over Michael D’Arcy taking up a top job in the Association of Investment Managers.

CABINET IS SET to finalise legislation today in a bid to strengthen the regulation of lobbying activity by former Ministers, senior civil servants and special advisers.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath will today bring proposals to be considered by Cabinet, which would see a failure to comply with the statutory 12-month cooling-off period for lobbying activity be a punishable offence for the first time.

Under the proposed new legislation, a monetary penalty of up to €25,000 and a prohibition from lobbying activity for up to two years would apply.

It follows controversy over the appointment of former Minister of State at the Department of Finance Michael D’Arcy to the position of Chief Executive of the Irish Association of Investment Managers shortly after he had left office as a Minister of State in the Department of Finance. 

D’Arcy was Minister of State at the Department of Finance from 2017 to 2020, and had responsibility for financial services and insurance, and worked on policy related to the funds sector.

In September 2020, he resigned his seat in the Seanad to take on the role in the private sector, only contacting the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) on the morning of his resignation to set out his position.

The Sunday Times reported last month that D’Arcy lobbied his former colleagues in the department on behalf of his new employer just after a self-imposed 12-month cooling-off period from lobbying – and therefore did no wrong under current regulations.

The new legislation will set out how a new system of sanctions will be administered by the SIPO.

Minister McGrath is also proposing to make it an offence for a person to take any action with the purpose of avoiding obligations to either register or submit lobbying returns to the Commission.

It is also expected that the legislation will bring business representative bodies or coalitions of business interests, regardless of number of employees, within the scope of the Lobbying Act and require that members of such groups be named on lobbying returns to ensure such groups do not avoid the requirement to register.

A further provision will extend the Act’s scope to include non-remunerated office-holders to capture all relevant lobbying activity.

  • Our colleagues at Noteworthy want to connect the dots between the State and former officials turned lobbyists. Support this project here.

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