Regulation of lobbying
Lobbying usually involves making views known to politicians and public servants about laws, policies and practices and possibly seeking to have those laws, policies and practices changed. Lobbying takes many different forms. You may be making your views known as a private citizen on issues which directly affect you or you may be making submissions or representations on issues that affect many people. You may be lobbying in person or you may get someone else to lobby on your behalf. You may conduct the lobbying in writing or orally.
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 came into effect on 1 September 2015 and provides that certain people who are carrying on lobbying activities must register with the Standards in Public Office Commission. They must also provide information about their lobbying activities.
In general, the people who are required to register are:
- Professional lobbyists who are paid to lobby on behalf of others
- Individuals and commercial organisations with more than 10 full time employees who are lobbying on their own behalf
- Representative bodies with at least 1 full-time employee and the lobbying is carried out by a paid employee or office holder
- Advocacy groups, non-governmental organisations and charities which have at least 1 full-time employee and which promote particular interests or causes, and the lobbying is carried out by a paid employee or office holder
Other individuals may be obliged to register if they are engaged in lobbying in relation to the development or zoning of land. See ‘Development and zoning of land’ below.
You must register if:
- You are carrying on lobbying activities
- The person you are lobbying is a designated public official
- You are making a relevant communication
- The communication is about a relevant matter and is not an excepted communication
Designated public official
The communication must be with a designated public official. Designated public officials are:
- Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State
- Other members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann
- Members of the European Parliament for constituencies in the State
- Members of local authorities
- Special advisers
- Prescribed public servants and office holders
Public bodies are obliged to publish information on their employees who are designated public officials.
You must be making a relevant communication. A relevant communication means an oral or written communication made personally (directly or indirectly) to a designated public official in relation to a relevant matter. It does not include certain types of communication. See ‘Excepted communications’ below.
A relevant matter means any matter relating to:
- The initiation, development or modification of any public policy or of any public programme,
- The preparation or amendment of any law
- The award of any grant, loan or other financial support, contract or other agreement, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds
It does not include any matter relating only to the implementation of any such policy, programme, enactment or award, or which is of a technical nature.
Certain types of communication, known as excepted communications, are not considered to be lobbying under the legislation. These include:
- Communications by or on behalf of an individual relating to their private affairs about any matter other than the development or zoning of land
- Communications requesting factual information or providing factual information in response to a request for the information
- Communications requested by a public service body and published by it
Development and zoning of land
You are considered to be lobbying if you make a relevant communication about the development or zoning of land under the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2014.
A communication about obtaining planning permission to build or extend your principal private residence is considered an excepted communication and therefore not lobbying. Under the legislation, your principal private residence is a dwelling or part of a dwelling occupied by you as your only or main residence. It includes your residence’s garden or grounds, up to 1 acre exclusive of the dwelling, which you have for your own occupation and enjoyment.
Making your views known to a local authority is not considered to be lobbying if it is part of a formal public consultation process about a development or local area plan or a proposal to zone or re-zone particular lands. However, if you communicate with a designated public official outside the formal public consultation process you may have to register your lobbying activity.
Applications for planning permission and submissions in relation to an application for planning permission are not lobbying. A communication, however, with a designated public official about a planning application which is outside of the formal planning process may be regarded as lobbying.
You can find more information in the Commission’s Guidelines on lobbying in relation to development and zoning of land.
Since 1 September 2015, if you are carrying on lobbying activities you must register at lobbying.ie. If you start lobbying between:
- 1 September and 31 December, you must register by 21 January
- 1 January and 30 April, you must register by 21 May
- 1 May and 31 August, you must register by 21 September
You must provide the following information when registering:
- Your name
- The address (or principal address) at which you carry on business or (if there is no such address) the address at which you normally live
- Your business or main activities
- Any e-mail address, telephone number or website address relating to your business or main activities
- Any registration number issued to you by the Companies Registration Office
- If a company, your registered office
You must also make returns about your lobbying activities during each of the above periods within 21 days of the end of the period. You have to provide the following:
- Where the lobbying was carried out on behalf of someone else, information about that person
- The designated public officials who were lobbied and the public body by which they are employed or in which they hold any office or other position
- The subject matter of lobbying and the result it was 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 a designated public official employed by or providing services to you, and who was engaged in carrying on lobbying activities
- Any change which has occurred during the period to the information supplied for registration purposes
If there has been no lobbying activity during the period, your return must state that. You do not have to make a return if your entry in the Register indicates that you have permanently ceased to carry on lobbying activities.
Viewing the Register
The Register of Lobbying is available to view for free on the lobbying.ie website. When the lobbying activity returns are made, it will hold information about:
- Who is lobbying and on whose behalf lobbying is being carried out
- Who is being lobbied
- The issues involved and the intended result of the lobbying