Interesting proposal from Brendan Howlin yesterday, aimed at identifying lobbyists who make contact with Ministers. It’s a particularly hot issue given the nature of some of the major cases studied by the Mahon tribunal:
- A two-year “cooling-off” period for public servants or ministers before they can work in the private sector or any area with a potential conflict of interest with their former area of public employment;
- A statutory register of lobbyists that would record the dates of all forms of communications – including emails or phone contact – between lobbyists and office holders or civil servants regarding policies, legislation or prospective decisions;
- A sliding scale of sanctions for lobbyists who fail to disclose details of contacts with decision-makers;
- A public register with details of contacts to be maintained by an independent body, such as the Standards in Public Office Commission or the Office of the Information Commissioner.
Publishing draft legislation is one thing, but getting these things onto the statute books is another. Will these proposals, for instance, be enacted in time for the sell off of the Irish National Lottery? Or the selling of 25% of the Irish government’s share in Aer Lingus.
In the case of the former there cannot be a major PR company in Dublin that has not already been commissioned by one or other of potential bidders.
Such a law will not necessarily put an end to the too easy relationship between the Irish political class and certain wealthy entrepreneurs, but it would at least be a signal.