Labour proposes fines for ministers who breach ethics rules

Labour proposes fines for ministers who breach ethics rules

 Labour's Ged Nash, right, with Aodhan O Riordain outlining plans to beef up rules on ethics breaches. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Government ministers who breach ethics legislation could face fines of up to €2,500 under new rules tabled by the Labour party.

The party says ethics legislation must be strengthened across the board in Ireland, and is also aiming to tighten rules on politicians working with lobby groups once they leave the Oireachtas.

It comes in the wake of former minister Michael D'Arcy, who resigned his Seanad seat to join the Irish Association of Investment Managers (IAIM), having previously held a position as a junior minister in the Department of Finance.

Labour TD Ged Nash has tabled legislation to close the lobbying loophole and to give the Standards In Public Office (SIPO) Commission the power to investigate and sanction former politicians who breach lobbying and ethics rules.

Mr Nash said that the legislation was "broadly quite strong" but Section 22 of the act, which requires a 12-month "cooling off period" for politicians to join organisations which they may have overseen, must be amended.

"A minister who is leaving office or has left office can apply for an exemption from SIPO from coverage of that particular piece of legislation. But we identified in the context of the affair where a minister who recently left office, moved into a role with the Irish Investment Managers Association that there are deficits in terms of Section 22 of the legislation.

Essentially, while the legislation broadly speaking was quite strong and quite progressive, there was a gap there. And the gap involves the fact that a breach or contravention of Section 22 of that cooling-off period is not an actual offence

"So this legislation would introduce the contravention of Section 22 as being a legal offence, and that would attract a fine of €2,500 and empower SIPO to investigate any such breaches."

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