Q&A: What's the fuss about Michael D'Arcy leaving the Seanad?

Q&A: What's the fuss about Michael D'Arcy leaving the Seanad?

Michael D'Arcy has resigned from the Seanad to join a funds lobby group. File Picture: Mary Browne

Why the big fuss?

Former Minister of State Michael D'Arcy sparked controversy this week when he announced he would be leaving the Seanad to join Irish Association of Investment Managers (IAIM) as CEO.

Mr D'Arcy's appointment was immediately criticised by opposition parties who questioned the legality of his move to a lobbying organisation which directly relates to his previous work as junior minister in the Department of Finance.

What do the rules state?

The Standards in Public Office commission(Sipo) guidelines ban ministers or junior ministers from lobbying for 12 months after leaving office. Section 22 of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 also states "a relevant designated public official shall not be employed by, or provide services to, a person carrying on lobbying activities".

Special exemptions to this rule can be granted but Mr D'Arcy did not seek an exemption.

What did Leo Varadkar know?

The Fine Gael leader said he had no knowledge of this matter prior to Sunday afternoon when Mr D'Arcy called him to say he had resigned from the Seanad and has accepted a role in the private sector.

Mr Varadkar said Mr D'Arcy should have informed Sipo prior to taking up his new position, but he was "glad" this contact has now taken place.

On Monday, Mr Varadkar said he is sorry to lose him, adding "his new employers are fortunate to recruit someone of his calibre".

“I would have loved to have seen Michael return to the Dáil as a TD and a minister after the next election but understand that, after 20 years in public life, he wants to start a new chapter of his life. He will always be welcome should he decide to run for election again."

What now?

Sipo has long been calling for greater powers to address the so-called "revolving door" between politicians and lobby groups.

Earlier this year Sipo expressed disappointment when none of the 22 recommendations it put forward were accepted as part of a review of lobbying laws.

However, the Government has now agreed to review the legislation once again. Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday told the Dáil that Sipo should be given the power to investigate and penalise politicians who break the 12-month cooling off period.

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