Registration of Lobbying
A lobbyist must be registered before carrying on lobbying activities unless it is the first time to lobby. In that case the registration and the return must be completed before the next return date.
The Commission maintains a register of lobbyists. The Standards in Public Office Commission is Registrar.
The information to be supplied when registering or in a return will be available on the register. The Commission is to decide not to publish certain personal information in order to prevent misuse or to protect the person’s right to privacy, e.g., private email addresses. The role of the Commission should it deem that information given is inaccurate, out of date or misleading.
The Act sets out the registration details to be included on the Register and for confirmation that the details entered onto the Register are correct. It also allows for registrants to have their registration marked as ceased.
The Act requires three returns per year. Persons engaged in lobbying, as defined, must file a return for each of the mandatory return dates unless their registration is marked as ceased. It allows for a nil return to be submitted also.
The Commission may require clarification or further information, and this must be returned within 21 days of the date of the notice. Where a reply is not received within 21 days the inaccurate registration or return will be removed from the register for non-compliance and a notice of the removal will be issued. The registration or return will be considered as not having been made. In certain circumstances the Commission may also immediately remove the information from the Register.
Details on Register
A person who wishes to be included on the Register shall make, in such manner and form as the Commission may require, an application to the Commission stating
- the person’s name,
- the address (or principal address) at which the person carries on business or (if there is no such address) the address at which the person ordinarily resides,
- the person’s business or main activities,
- any e-mail address, telephone number or website address relating to the person’s business or main activities,
- any registration number issued to the person by the Companies Registration Office, and
- (if a company) the person’s registered office.
The application shall contain a statement by the person by whom it is made that the information contained in it is correct. The person is taken to become a registered person on making a compliant application.
A registered person who has permanently ceased to carry on lobbying activities may notify the Commission, in such manner and form as the Commission may require, that it wishes the person’s entry on the Register to be marked with a statement indicating that the person has permanently ceased to carry on lobbying activities.
Returns by registered persons
A registered person shall, after the end of each period make to the Commission, in such manner and form as the Commission may require, a return covering the relevant period. This does not apply to a registered person whose entry on the Register has been marked with a statement indicating that the person has permanently ceased to carry on lobbying activities. If the registered person has not carried on any lobbying activities in the period covered by the return, the return shall state that fact.
If the registered person has carried on lobbying activities in the period covered by the return, the return shall state—
- where any of the communications concerned were made on behalf of another person (“client”), the information below relating to the client,
- the designated public officials to whom the communications concerned were made and the body by which they are employed or in which they hold any office or other position,
- the subject matter of those communications and the results they were intended to secure,
- the type and extent of the lobbying activities carried on,
- the name of the individual who had primary responsibility for carrying on the lobbying activities,
- the name of each person who is or has been (whether before or after the passing of this Act) a designated public official employed by, or providing services to, the registered person and who was engaged in carrying on lobbying activities, and
- any such other information relating to carrying on lobbying activities as may be prescribed.
The information referred to above in relation to a client, means—
- the client’s name,
- the address (or principal address) at which the client carries on business or (if there is no such address) the address at which the client ordinarily resides,
- the client’s business or main activities,
- any e-mail address, telephone number or website address relating to the client’s business or main activities,
- any registration number issued to the client by the Companies Registration Office, and
- (if a company) the address of the client’s registered office.
The return shall contain details of any change during the relevant period in the information entered on the Register in relation to the person by whom it is made.
The Minister may prescribe that a return is to include information as to—
- the name of any person involved in carrying on lobbying activities (other than the person who has primary responsibility),
- any other matters which appear to the Minister to be appropriate having regard to the public interest in there being an appropriate level of transparency in relation to carrying on lobbying activities and in opening up the carrying on of lobbying activities to public scrutiny.
A return shall contain a statement by the person by whom it is made that the information contained in it is correct.
Further or Corrected Information
Where the Commission considers that further information is required if an application or return made by a person is to comply or that any information contained in an application made by a person is inaccurate or misleading, the Commission may by notice given to the person require the person to provide further or corrected information within 21 days from the date on which the notice is given.
If a person does not comply with a requirement relating to an application or return, the Commission shall remove from the Register the information contained in the application or return and notify the person of the reason for the removal of the information from the Register, and the person shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as never having made the application or return.
Where the Commission considers that any information contained in an application made by a person is inaccurate or misleading, the Commission may immediately remove from the Register the information contained in the application or return pending provision of corrected information; and the person shall be treated for the purposes of this Act as never having made the application or return unless and until the corrected information is provided.
There may be delayed publication where the registrant believes the registration or the return relating to the lobbying activity would be expected to
- have a serious adverse effect on the financial interests of the State, the national economy, or business interests generally or the business interests of any description of persons, or
- cause a material financial loss to the person to whom the information relates or prejudice seriously the competitive position of that person in the conduct of the person’s occupation, profession or business or the outcome of any contractual or other negotiations being conducted by that person.
The Commission on receipt of the application will consult with the relevant Ministers where appropriate before a decision is made in relation to matters coming within the first category. The Commission would be required to consider whether the public interest would, on balance, be better served by refusing to grant than by granting the application. The registrant will be notified of the Commission’s decision within 21 days of receipt of the application. The Commission may decide to publish summary information only.
Ay document which the Commission certified as a copy of an entry on the Register is deemed to be a true copy and can be used as evidence in legal proceedings unless it is proven not to be a true copy.
Code of Conduct and Guidance
A statutory code of conduct to be created for lobbyists by the Commission. In developing a code, the Commission must consult with interested organisations or individuals. The Commission is to issue guidance particularly with a view to promoting understanding of the Act.
For the purposes of this Act the following are relevant contraventions:
- failing to register where required.
- failing to make a return as required.
- providing to the Commission under this Act any information known to be inaccurate or misleading;
- failing to comply with a requirement.
- obstructing an investigation
The Commission has the power to authorise an investigation to be carried out. The Commission can appoint authorised officers to carry out the investigation on its behalf.
While conducting an investigation the authorised officer can request any information or copies of documentation deemed appropriate to the investigation and has the power to enter premises to seek copies of documents subject to the consent of the occupier or pursuant to a warrant. Any information that is in the authorised officer’s possession will remain confidential unless this Act requires its publication.
A person who commits a relevant contravention by making a return after the relevant date is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a class C fine. A person who commits a relevant contravention in any other way is guilty of an offence and liable—
- on summary conviction to a class C fine, or
- on conviction on indictment, to a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or both.
It is a defence in proceedings for an offence under this section for the person charged with the offence to prove that the person took all reasonable steps to avoid the commission of the offence. Summary proceedings for an offence under this section may be brought and prosecuted by the Commission.
Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section the court shall order the person to pay to the Commission a sum equal to the costs and expenses, measured by the court, incurred by the Commission in relation to the investigation, detection and prosecution of the offence.
The Commission may serve fixed payment notices where an offence has been committed under section 20(1) in relation to the late filing of returns. A fixed payment notice will state the amount (€200), the payment method and payment date. Where payment is made within the timeframe court proceedings will not be initiated.
There are provisions for appeals of certain decisions made by the Commission. The Minister can appoint a panel of independent appeal officers. The role of the appeal officer is to determine if a decision made relating to inaccurate or misleading information, relating to delayed publication or section 22 relating to post-term employment are confirmed, amended or revoked.
The appeal officer is not confined to deciding the appeal based on the grounds on which the original decision was made. The decision will be made within 30 days of receipt of the appeal and will include the reason for the decision. The person appealing the decision will be notified along with the Commission.
A decision of the appeal officer may be appealed to the High Court on a point of law. This appeal must be brought within 21 days of the notice of the decision. The decision of the High Court is final.
An annual report is to be compiled by the Commission. It is to sets out the types of information to be reported on and provides for the report to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas within 6 months of the end of the relevant year.
The 2023 Act makes certain amendments.
Persons applying for registration to give the name of every person who is a member of an informal business group, as defined.
A person making an application to be included on the Lobbying Register is to supply the address at which they carry on their ‘main activities’, if applicable.
There is an obligation on registered persons to inform the Commission, as soon as possible, of any change in their registration information.
A registered person’s entry on the Lobbying Register can be marked by the Commission with a statement that the person has ceased to carry on lobbying activities – not necessarily permanently – once the Commission has been notified of this fact by the person concerned. A registered person must notify the Commission when the person wishes to re-commence carrying on lobbying activities and permits the Commission to reflect this change on the Lobbying Register.
Persons making lobbying returns must provide, if applicable, the names of all members of the informal business groups that come under the scope of the Act.