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Two-year lobbying ban for former politicians

FORMER politicians and public servants are to be banned from lobbying their former departments for two years after leaving office.

This will prevent a repeat of past controversies which saw ministers retiring before immediately starting to lobby the departments and officials they once worked for.

The Department of Public Expenditure said yesterday there had been general support for its plan to include this "cooling off" period in its legislation to regulate lobbying.

The regulations are due to be brought in next year.

But it has not yet decided if retired politicians or public servants would be banned from lobbying completely for two years -- or just from lobbying the departments and organisations they previously worked for.

Lobbying has long been a source of employment for retired politicians, including former Fianna Fail minister Noel Dempsey, who has set up his own company, Noel Dempsey Consulting.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said his legislation would require all lobbyists to sign up to a public register "to enhance transparency in the key area of decision making".

Hired

The register may also include the names of the companies who hired them, the politicians and public servants they lobbied, and fees they were paid.

Mr Howlin may be facing a battle with Jobs Minister Richard Bruton's department, which argued that legislation to regulate lobbyists "may not be required" and a voluntary "Code of Good Practice" may be enough.

Lobbyist Conor McGrath said that it was impossible to overlook the fact that the lobbying industry did not have a "wholly unblemished record in the past".

But he said he believed that most Irish lobbyists operated entirely appropriately, and backed the introduction of a register.

The Irish Farmers Association said it would "strongly resist" proposals to list all contacts between its staff and TDs.

It said this would be totally "impractical, highly wasteful of resources and prohibitively costly".

Irish Independent