Transparency of lobbying: The example of the Irish Lobby Register

Briefing 26-07-2016

On 11 March 2015, Ireland’s Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was signed into law by President Michael D. Higgins. The Act provides for, inter alia, the establishment of a mandatory register of lobbyists and lays out its rules. The Irish Lobby Register was only the sixth fully mandatory lobby register among the EU Member States, and attracted widespread attention due to its comprehensive scope. The drive to develop the legislation was strengthened by a number of public scandals in the country. The Irish Lobby Register presents an example which other Member States could follow, and might also be a source of inspiration for an EU system in transition. Its mandatory nature allows for a stricter approach, with investigations and sanctions available for non-compliance. Strict definitions enumerate those who fall under its scope, unlike the EU’s all-encompassing activity-based definition of interest representation. While financial information is not requested of registrants under the Irish system, returns are required three times a year and provide greater detail on all instances of lobbying activity carried out. Its scope is both broad and ambitious. As with any new legislation, the effectiveness of the new Irish system can only be measured in practice. The register has met with a positive start, registering a high uptake. A critical period is approaching, with the legislation to be reviewed in September 2016, one year after its commencement. The powers of investigation and sanctions under the Act will also come into force simultaneously.