Irish Farmers Association and Ibec the most prolific lobbyists says first official record of political lobbying activities

The Irish Farmers Association and employers’ group, Ibec, are the country’s most prolific lobbyists according to the first official record of political lobbying activities.

Both made more than 100 entries on the new Lobbying Register which passed its first deadline for returns yesterday, covering activities from September to December last.

Ibec lobbied widely, making repeated contacts about measures to cut alcohol consumption in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and what it wants in general election manifestos — chiefly cuts to capital gains and the top rate of income tax.

The IFA submitted returns on a wide range of subjects including long-running concerns about TB eradication policies; and challenges to the beef and sheep sectors; to more recent problems around flooding.

Irish Farmers Association and Ibec the most prolific lobbyists says first official record of political lobbying activities

All individuals and organisations who approach a politician, special adviser or senior civil servant to try to influence the law or public policy on their own behalf or for a client are now obliged by law to register their details and file returns on their activities three times a year.

Returns by Ervia, Irish Water’s parent company, suggest it was unsure of its support even from within the coalition. It met Tánaiste Joan Burton’s special advisor to: “provide information on the need for a national utility to run Ireland’s water services”.

The only other party representative approached and given the same briefing at a separate meeting was Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin which wants to abolish Irish Water.

The Tánaiste was mentioned in 126 acts of lobbying, targeted individually or in a group, while Taoiseach Enda Kenny was mentioned 137 times. However, Finance Minister Michael Noonan must be feeling particularly powerful as he was the most frequently targeted Cabinet member with 323 mentions.

Irish Farmers Association and Ibec the most prolific lobbyists says first official record of political lobbying activities

Some 1,050 people and organisations had registered by the time phone helplines closed at 5.30pm yesterday although registration could continue online until midnight, and between them they made 2,283 returns.

Some lobbying was specific in its aims. One lobbyist wanted Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to tour Merrion Vaults to promote the use of safety deposit boxes as a safeguard against burglary.

The Vintners Federation made a less clear approach to Health Minister Leo Varadkar to push for regulations that all outlets supplying food would have toilets.

Some approaches reflect ongoing matters of public concern. The National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church sought to meet Children’s Minister James Reilly to ask him to ensure statutory agencies shared with the board any knowledge they had of allegations against priests and religious.

Irish Farmers Association and Ibec the most prolific lobbyists says first official record of political lobbying activities

It said it wanted to avoid putting children at risk of abuse. It reported the meeting took place but that information sharing “is still a subject for discussion”.

Lobbying regulator, Sherry Perreault, said she was delighted with the level of compliance.

“At this stage we’re just making sure that people are getting their returns in and complying with the rules. We’re going to be doing more comprehensive analysis of the quality of the returns over the next few weeks,” she said.

She said where the information supplied was incorrect, incomplete or vague, there would be follow-up to ensure the returns were improved.


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