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Friday 15 December 2017

Gilmore unable to give date for register of lobbyists

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore yesterday insisted the Government will bring in a register for political lobbyists -- but could not say when it will be introduced.

He was speaking in the Dail after the Irish Independent revealed a major contract was awarded to a company with close links to Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The firm, Fleishman Hillard, won a lucrative contract with state training agency FAS after Fine Gael swept to power.

The PR firm's head of consulting, Mark Mortell, was one of the architects of Fine Gael's historic election victory. He was a key adviser to Mr Kenny and also played a critical role in the coalition negotiations with the Labour Party.

While in opposition, Fine Gael accused Fianna Fail of awarding contracts to PR companies it had strong links with. The party dubbed the firm Q4 "friends of Fianna Fail".

In the wake of the latest controversy, Fianna Fail's communications spokesman Eamon O Cuiv said he wanted to see a register of lobbyists. But Mr Gilmore was unable to say when the promised register would be introduced.

Former Gaeltacht Minister Mr O Cuiv asked, "in the light" of the controversy surrounding Mr Mortell, if there were "any initiatives to bring forward speedy proposals to deal with the issue".

This was despite Fianna Fail thwarting efforts by the Green Party to bring in a register of lobbyists, and twice voting down Dail private members' motions on the issue.

Mr Gilmore told the Dail legislation on lobbying was in the Programme for Government and would be brought in during the lifetime of the coalition, although he could not give a definite date.

"The Government's commitment to provide for a register of lobbyists remains," Mr Gilmore said. "The legislation dealing with lobbyists will be introduced by the Government."


A spokesperson for Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, the cabinet member with ultimate responsibility for FAS, would not criticise the awarding of the contract -- and insisted it was "in line with best international practice".

"The minister was not aware of the contract awarded by FAS to Fleishman Hillard," the spokesperson said.

"The decision was made before Minister Quinn was appointed as Minister for Education and Skills.

"It is understood the contract was publicly tendered and awarded in line with best international practice. The contract was tendered and awarded during the lifetime of the last Government. Minister Quinn had no role in the process."

Irish Independent

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