Source: Sinn Féin
29 September, 2020 – by Pearse Doherty TD, Mairéad Farrell TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty and spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform Mairéad Farrell will bring forward legislation that gives the Standards in Public Office Commission powers to investigate and sanction public officials who flout Section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015.
The act prohibits former ministers from being employed by lobby groups within 12 months of leaving office. But the previous Fine Gael government, led by Leo Varadkar, repeatedly ignored SIPO recommendations that would empower them to enforce it.
Fine Gael’s inaction facilitated their former minister Michael D’Arcy being appointed CEO of the Irish Association of Investment Managers, which had lobbied him and his own department while he was Minister for State.
Speaking today, Teachta Doherty said: “Sinn Féin will bring forward legislation that closes the revolving door between government and big business.
“Our legislation will empower SIPO to investigate and prosecute persons who flout Section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015.
“SIPO has repeatedly, over the past number of years, called for powers to enforce the act. But their pleas have repeatedly fallen on deaf ears as Leo Varadkar’s government had little interest in ending the cosy relationship between Fine Gael and business leaders.
“As recently as last year, SIPO made a submission to the Department of Finance while Michael D’Arcy was minister, calling for the Commission to be given power to investigate and sanction breaches of Section 22.
“They made the same recommendations as far back as 2016. They were not implemented by Leo Varadkar’s government, and it is easy to see why.
“Fine Gael’s inaction led to the announcement yesterday that their former Minister for State and Senator Michael D’Arcy had been appointed CEO of the Irish Association of Investment Managers, three months after he was minister with responsibility for their industry.
“This organisation, a registered lobby group, lobbied Michael D’Arcy while he was minister regarding generous tax breaks worth millions of euros for multinational executives – tax breaks Fine Gael have passed in successive budgets despite Sinn Féin opposition.
“The Regulation of Lobbying Act prohibits former ministers from being employed by lobby groups within 12 months of leaving office, unless they are granted permission by the Standards in Public Office Commission.
“The guidelines also make clear that a former minister should seek the Commission’s consent before taking up employment if there is a possibility that the employer is carrying out lobbying activities.
“The former Fine Gael minister did none of these things. He flouted the spirit of the regulations, aided by his party.
“The close relationship between Fine Gael and big business cannot be allowed to corrode the job of government, which is to represent the people.
“Fine Gael are determined to keep an open door between government and private interests. They walk through this door frequently, corroding public trust in our politics.
“Sinn Féin are determined to close that door and ensure government works for the people, not the private interests or the career ambitions of Fine Gael politicians.
“We will be publishing legislation in the coming days to tighten these regulations, and close the door that Fine Gael are determined to keep open.”