Regulation of lobbying
Lobbying involves making views known to politicians and public servants about laws, policies and practices as well as potentially seeking to have those laws, policies and practices changed. Lobbying takes many different forms. You may make your views known as a private citizen on issues that directly affect you, or you may present views on issues that affect other groups of people. You may lobby in person, get someone else to lobby on your behalf or lobby through writing.
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 provides that people who are lobbying must register with the Standards in Public Office Commission. They must also provide information about their lobbying activities. It also provides a code of conduct for lobbying activities and introduces a “cooling-off” period during which some former officials may not do any lobbying.
There is no charge to register as a lobbyist or to view the Register of Lobbying.
Who needs to register to lobby
You are required to register if you are carrying on lobbying activities, meaning:
- You are communicating directly or indirectly with a designated public official
- You are communicating about a relevant matter
- The communication is not an excepted communication
And you are one of the following:
- A professional lobbyist being paid by a client to lobby on their behalf (where the client is an employer of more than 10 full time employees or is a representative body or an advocacy body which has at least one full-time employee)
- An employer with more than 10 employees where the communications are made on your behalf
- A representative body with at least one employee, communicating on behalf of its members, where the communication is made by a paid employee or office holder of the body.
- An advocacy body with at least one employee that exists primarily to take up particular issues and a paid employee or office holder of the body is communicating on such issues.
- A person communicating about the development or zoning of land.
Designated public official
Lobbying is communication with a designated public official. Designated public officials are:
- Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State
- Other members of Dáil Éireann (TDs) and Seanad Éireann (Senators)
- Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for constituencies in the State
- Members of local authorities (Councillors)
- Special advisers
- Prescribed public servants and office holders
Public bodies must publish information on their employees who are designated public officials.
Communication on a ‘relevant matter’
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.
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 occupied by you as your main residence. It includes up to 1 acre of land exclusive of your dwelling that 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
- A proposal to zone or re-zone particular lands
- Applications for planning permission and submissions in relation to an application for planning permission
However, if you communicate with a designated public official outside the formal public consultation or application process you may have to register your lobbying activity.
You can find more information in the Commission’s Guidelines on lobbying in relation to development and zoning of land.
How to register
Since 1 September 2015, if you are carrying on lobbying activities you must register at lobbying.ie. You are not required to register before you begin lobbying. 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, if you are lobbying in a personal capacity, or the name of your company or organisation
- 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
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. There must be a separate return for each subject matter. This information must be clear, detailed and meaningful
- 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 to your registration information
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. It holds 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