Will Irish government’s transparency law make it to law before major asset sell off?

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.

, , , ,

  • jthree

    Nama is disposing of €750m of property at par value a month, every month. That’s a major asst sell-off in full swing and will dwarf all the others put together.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s the ship that’s already sailed though…

  • Rory Carr

    Your final paragraph, Mick is less forgiving of the political class than I have come to associate with your generally more generous stance and, for me at least, one to be welcomed.

    Of course I think that the only signal that will be received will be that, should such legislation indeed be enacted, then our public representative must publicly welcome the new safeguards as being long overdue (“Harrumph ! Harrumph !) while striving to become an even cuter “hoor” than ever before in the circumvention of any part thereof that might have a negative effect upon his earning potential.

    Practice. It is practice that counts.

  • Mister Joe

    We have a similar law in Canada. In practice, it is easy to circumvent with little or no sanction. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  • Mick Fealty

    You can’t circumvent it Joe, but you can:

    – 1, recognise there is an ongoing problem;

    – 2, act reduce the danger of blanket lobbying for assets the profits of which are more than enough to justify a big lobby spend;

    – 3, flagging that this is business is being watched.

  • Mister Joe

    You can’t circumvent it …

    How’s about this, Mick. You can’t be a lobbyist but can you be a consultant to a lobby firm and just happen to invite an old colleague to lunch?