Lobbying Bill could promote ‘culture of secrecy’, warns Senator

Government chief whip in Seanad concerned at new legislation

Concern that the new lobbying legislation may lead to a culture of secrecy in the Civil Service has been expressed by Government Chief Whip in the Seanad Paul Coghlan.

The Fine Gael Senator has been in contact with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin following a debate in the Seanad on the Registration of Lobbying Bill.

While giving a general welcome to the Bill, Mr Coghlan expressed worries it could have the unintended consequence of closing off designated public officials to engagement with external vested interests.

This might happen if officials feared being “listed” in the reports that groups, companies and organisations involved in lobbying would have to file with the Standards in Public Office Commission.


“It would be regrettable if a cautious desire to avoid the limelight of reportage actually led to the system of public administration clamming up and closing in on itself,” Mr Coghlan said. “It would be important that this aspect is monitored closely to ensure that the intent and objective underpinning this important legislation does not lead to non-engagement with external groups and individuals, particularly among public servant.”

He added that it was important to distinguish proper lobbying activities from attempts to bribe or corrupt.

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins

Stephen Collins is a columnist with and former political editor of The Irish Times