On 15 November 2023, the Government announced that the Minister for Public Expenditure, National Development Plan Delivery and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, has signed the commencement order for the Regulation of Lobbying and Oireachtas (Allowances to Members) (Amendment) Act 2023 (the 2023 Act).
The 2023 Act updates and strengthens Ireland's existing lobbying framework, amending the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (the 2015 Act). The main changes introduced by the 2023 Act are enhancement of the enforcement provisions, an expansion of the scope of existing lobbying laws (in particular, regarding when certain representative and advocacy bodies can qualify as lobbyists) and some practical changes to improve the functioning of the Register of Lobbying.
For more detailed information on the changes and how they will impact businesses and other organisations that engage in lobbying, please click here to listen to our earlier soundbite or view our earlier article.
The commencement order provides for a two-phased implementation of the changes in the 2023 Act, with full commencement occurring on 1 June 2024.
Phase 1 – the Register of Lobbying
All provisions of the 2023 Act except those which relate to enforcement will commence on 1 January 2024. This covers all changes relating to scope and updates which pertain to the Register of Lobbying. Since 1 September 2015, any qualifying lobbyists who lobby certain prescribed senior public office holders (known as designated public officials or DPOs) have been required to register and report on their lobbying activities every four months on the Register.
The short lead-in time until 1 January 2024 is intended to provide the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), which is responsible for maintaining the Register of Lobbying and enforcing lobbying rules, with the time required to update the Register of Lobbying and its associated guidance, as well as to make lobbyists aware of the forthcoming changes.
Phase 2 – enforcement
The outstanding provisions relating to enforcement will commence on 1 June 2024. These include a new anti-avoidance offence and a new administrative sanctions regime which allows SIPO to impose fines of up to €25,000 in certain circumstances. This longer lead-in time is to afford SIPO time to develop the processes required to ensure the efficient operation of its new sanctions regime and to conduct awareness-raising activities with lobbyists and relevant DPOs.