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Website needed for disclosure of lobbyists' meetings with policy makers

Transparency International Ireland has reacted to a report in today’s Irish Times outlining proposed laws that will force lobbyists to disclose their contacts with politicians and senior civil servants.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin (File)
Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin (File)
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

TRANSPARENCY IRELAND HAS said that a dedicated website will be the only way to prevent the credibility of proposals to disclose all contact between lobbyists and policy makers from being undermined.

Proposals for new laws that will force lobbyists to disclose their contacts with TDs and senior civil servants are expected to be announced at the end of the month in a bid to create more transparency over government decision making.

“Anything less than full, mandatory disclosure and easy public access to information would undermine the credibility of the proposals,” John Devitt from Transparency International Ireland said today.

The proposals come in the wake of the Mahon Tribunal report into planning corruption which recommended greater transparency over the role of lobbyists and the government’s latest proposals were reported on in detail in today’s Irish Times.

The paper outlined that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin plans to model laws in Ireland on the Canadian model whereby it is incumbent on lobbyists to register with a statutory body all contacts they have with office holders or civil servants.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Devitt said that these proposals would remove the burden from ordinary people who have to pay for such information through Freedom of Information requests and the government from having to collate this information.

“The public are required to make expensive requests for information through FOI which slows down the flow of information to the public. The public have a right to know,” he said.

“And it would save government a lot of money if they put the onus on people like me rather than have officials running around to try and get the information.”

He suggested that any organisation that does not comply with the rules should face statutory penalties that could include warnings, fines and even criminal penalties for any “egregious” offences.

Devitt also said it was reasonable to expect exemptions, such as ones for foreign diplomats and lobbyists for multinationals if they are investing in Ireland, but said that there should still be an opportunity for the public to request information if they feel it has not been disclosed fully.

Read: How to prevent corruption in the future: Mahon’s recommendations

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Hugh O'Connell

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