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Public submissions show support for 'cooling-off' period for political lobbying

Submissions made to Brendan Howlin show general support for a two-year period before politicians can be hired as lobbyists.

Image: buddawiggi via Flickr

PUBLIC SUBMISSIONS made to the government on its proposals for a new register of lobbyists show broad support for the idea that former politicians and public servants be banned from lobbying work for two years after leaving office.

The submissions, sent to the government in the past few months and published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform this morning, show wide backing for a two-year ‘cooling-off period’ before a person can register as a lobbyist.

The move would mean that former ministers or civil servants would be legally barred from entry onto the lobbyists’ register – and therefore from all private sector lobbying – for a significant period after they leave their political job.

The 53 submissions – from groups ranging from the Society of St Vincent de Paul to the Irish Property Owners’ Association and tobacco manufacturer John Player – also show consensus for a definitive definition on ‘lobbying’ and what it might entail.

Concerns are raised in some submissions that a threshold could be introduced below which lobbying activities might not be registered – while others propose that advocacy groups and charities be specifically exempted, or treated differently, to other lobbying groups.

There is also some concern in some submissions that the new measures could theoretically hamper the ability of a member of the public to contact their local representatives and seek their action on a particular topic.

Submissions also hold different opinions on the detail of information to be supplied to the register – with some parties arguing for merely basic details to be registered, while others want full disclosure of all meetings, funding sources and spending.

There is general agreement that the registry of lobbyists is a welcome move, while there is also agreement that the bureaucracy and cost of registering should be minimal. There is also support for a code of conduct for lobbyists, and independent oversight of the system.

The submissions will be used by the Department to develop a policy paper ultimately leading to a conference where interested parties can have their inputs on the prospective new bills.

Government documents published last November outlined a pledge to prepare legislation on lobbying by the end of 2012.

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Gavan Reilly

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