A new set of obligations on lobbyists, public service bodies and former designated public officials ("DPO"s) will soon be commenced. The broader definition of lobbying activities provided for in the Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (the "2023 Amendment Act") will result in more individuals being caught within scope and it is essential that anybody operating in this space understand their obligations. There are also heightened reporting requirements for public bodies and a new administrative sanctions regime which could have a significant impact on lobbyists.
The Enactment of the 2023 Amendment Act: New Obligations to Keep in Mind
The 2023 Amendment Act was enacted on 22 June 2023 and included the key proposed changes to the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, these being:
- A wider definition of lobbying;
- A requirement for greater details under registration;
- Increased responsibilities on public service bodies employing DPOs; and
- A new administrative sanctions regime for former DPOs which allows the Standards in Public Office Commission (the "SIPO") to carry out investigations and impose major or minor sanctions.
You can read our detailed analysis here.
With these changes now enacted, there are key obligations for lobbyists and public bodies to consider. Lobbyists must ensure that they register and that the new registration requirements are complied with. Increased enforcement means that failing to do so can result in either a fine, imprisonment of up to two years or both.
There are also greater information requirements on public service bodies who employ DPOs. When a public service body becomes aware that a DPO will be leaving their employment, the body must notify the SIPO of the name and address of the individual, their grade or rank and the date on which they took up and left or are leaving the position. A public service body is required to inform all employed DPOs of their obligations under the Act in writing. It remains to be seen what the consequences of non-compliance are in this respect.
The administrative sanctions regime which will apply to former DPOs is the most significant change, with potentially wide-sweeping financial consequences. A major sanction can include a fine of up to €25,000, a prohibition of registering for up to two years, a prohibition on the person from making or having a return made for up to two years or any combination of these. This requires DPOs to ensure that they are informed and compliant throughout the course of their employment and for a one year period thereafter.
We will continue to monitor developments and we will provide a further update once the 2023 Amendment Act has been commenced. The next return deadline is 21 September 2023 for all returns due between 1 May 2023 and 31 August 2023.
For further information regarding the above, please contact Caoilfhionn Ní Chuanacháin (Partner), Niamh O’Brien (Associate) or another member of the Dispute Resolution Team at Addleshaw Goddard (Ireland) LLP.
To the Point
Subscribe for legal insights, industry updates, events and webinars to your inboxSign up now
Get up to date with our latest news on LinkedInFollow now