Do you need to register your lobbying communications?

Ahead of the 21 September deadline, Public Affairs specialist Aideen Ginnell says three questions will determine if your company/organization needs to register lobbying activity

Lobbying used to be one of the grey areas of Irish business and politics.

Unregulated as the industry was, most lobbying was done behind closed doors – with nobody the wiser.

That has all changed.

Register and declare lobbying

The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) now require anyone involved in lobbying to register and declare their activities.

Anyone who hasn’t already registered needs to do so – and fast.

Stiff penalties for non-compliance

The deadline for the next returns has been set for 21 September.

This deadline cannot be ignored. SIPO mean business, and will enforce penalties for lobbyists who don’t comply from that date onwards.

Who needs to register?

Generally, a lobbyist is employed by a PR firm, trade organization, union or public interest group.

As the lines have been blurred on the definition of lobbying for so long, some businesses / organisations may not even be aware that they lobby and so do not realise that they need to register with SIPO.

The bottom line is, if your business or organization has engaged, or intends to engage with public officials then you must register.

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Hiring an agency

You can register as a lobbyist directly, or by hiring an agency that will register your lobbying activity when it happens.

Either way, you must take a systematic approach to recording lobbying activity during the relevant periods – or face the penalties.

3 questions to consider

To decide if you need to take action, consider these three questions:

  1. Are you?
  • An employer with more than 10 employees where 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, where a paid employee or office-holder of the body is communicating such issues
  • A person communicating about the development or zoning of land?
  1. Are you communicating about the following?
  • The initiation, development or modification of any public policy or any public programme
  • The preparation or amendment of any law
  • The award of any grant, loan, contract, or of any licence or other authorisation involving public funds
  1. Are you communicating (directly or indirectly) with a Designated Public Official?
  • Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State
  • Other Members of Dáil Eireann and Seanad Eireann
  • Members of the European Parliament for constituencies in the State
  • Members of local authorities
  • Special advisers appointed under section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997
  • Public servants of a prescribed description
  • Any other prescribed office holders or description of persons

You can find these questions and more information on the Register of Lobbying website.

Cullen Communications is a specialist PR and Public Affairs agency. Our free guide to the new Lobbying Act will help you to identify if you have any reporting obligations under the new law.

Free! Download our guide to Lobbying Act 2015

Contact us on (01) 668 9099 if you’d like to discuss registering any lobbying activities.

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Aideen Ginnell is a Senior Client Executive with Cullen Communications, specialising in Public Affairs

Topics: PR, agency, business, communications, lobbying, Public Affairs

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