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Thursday 15 November 2018

Top Irish firms pay out millions to lobby key US decision makers

NICK WEBB SOME of Ireland's most prominent companies - including CRH, Eddie Haughey's Norbrook Laboratories, a Dermot Desmond-backed software firm and Airtricity - have, between them, spent millions of dollars securing access to key US politicans and civil servants.

The news comes in a week when links between big business and political lobbyists in the US have come under increased scrutiny.

Norbrook Laboratory boss Eddie Haughey, now Lord Ballyedmond, paid $310,000 to former US Senator Bruce Morrison's lobbying company since 2002, according to documents obtained by the Sunday Independent. Morrison was retained to lobby the US Federal Drug Administration and politicians.

Morrison is best known for helping introduce the so-called "Morrison Visa", which enabled tens of thousands of young Irish people emigrate to the US in the mid Nineties.

Morrison Public Affair Group registered with US authorities to lobby for Norbrook in August 2001. By mid 2005, it had received $310,00 from Norbrook.

GDC, another firm associated with Morrison earned $45,000 from Norbrook for lobbying on "FDA regulatory issues" in 2001.

CRH spent nearly ?1.9m on lobbying US politicians and Department of Transportation officials over the last six or so years. Parts of its US subsidiary Oldcastle retained Washington DC-based lobbyists Van Scoyoc Associates to press its case for improved highway funding, a source of hundreds of millions of dollars of income for the Irish concrete company.

It was money well spent. Last July US lawmakers approved a record $286.5bn federal highway funding programme. Van Scoyoc Associates have received a total of nearly $1.1m or $160,000 per year since 1999.

Oldcastle Materials, part of the overall CRH group, also released details of "expenses related to lobbying activities" clocked up by its "vice president Government Relations" John C Hay. Since registering for lobbying activities in October 2002, Oldcastle Materials has spent $795,000 schmoosing politicans and civil servants.

The Dermot Desmond-backed technology company e-Spatial signed up with Washington DC lobbying firm R V Davis & Associates in January 2003. The "intelligence community" as well as US Department of Defence and politicians were lobbied about "House and Senate Defence appropriations and authorisation issues," according to Senate documents. E-Spatial spent under $20,000 in 2003.

Eddie O'Connor's windfarm company Airtricity hired the Covington & Burling lobbyist firm last year. In the first half of 2005, it had handed over about $2,500 in lobbying fees.

William L Massey is a lobbyist in the firm. He is also a commissioner of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which was targeted by Airtricity over US energy policy and regulatory issues.

Galway-based technology entrepreneur Declan Ganley was involved with a number of companies registered with US lobbyists, including Guardian Net, Rivada and Liberty Mobile. The latter was unsuccessful in seeking a mobile phone licence for Iraq last year.

Barry O'Callaghan's Riverdeep registered with Washington firm Johnston and Associates in 2000, to press its case for Federal and State education budget issues. SIGNAL, a group representing the interests of Shannon airport workers was also registered with Theodore Kronmiller in December last month.

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