AN ANALYSIS OF the Register of Lobbying has revealed Ireland’s most active business lobbyists.
According to data compiled by Fora, some 9,885 returns were submitted to the register for the period covering 1 January to 31 December 2017. This reflects the lobbying activities of business representative groups, charities, private companies and other such parties.
Of the business interest groups, private firms and trade unions that filed submissions last year, employer representative Ibec was by far the most active individual lobbyist.
The organisation – which is made up of 42 trade associations, including the Small Firms Association and the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland – submitted 625 returns to the register for the 12-month period.
The Irish Farmers’ Association was the second-most active group, with 471 returns, and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association was third, with 124 returns.
Other active groups included the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies – an umbrella group for Ireland’s accountancy profession – which submitted 115 returns, and Retail Excellence, whose designated CEO is ex-Labour senator Lorraine Higgins, with 101 returns.
Under the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, lobbyists must provide details of the politicians and State officials they have engaged with during a certain period of time and on what issues.
The act is intended to provide greater transparency on how organisations try to influence policy-making decisions and when they provide lawmakers with information about their business activities.
Lobbyists must provide details of who they have contacted, on what area of policy and state the intended outcome of their activities.
Several multinational companies with headquarters in Ireland were also busy communicating with local and national politicians and State officials.
The Irish wings of home-sharing service Airbnb and social network Facebook were the most active multinational lobbyists, filing 13 and 11 returns respectively.
Unsurprisingly the US home-sharing platform spent most of its lobbying efforts last year trying to influence housing policy by providing TDs with information on its service and showcasing the “positive impacts” of the business.
Amid concerns that short-term lets are taking much-needed housing stock off the market, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government is considering the rollout of a Airbnb licensing scheme, although it’s likely to only apply to Dublin.
Facebook engaged with politicians on several issues, including EU data protection regulations, surveillance legislation and online safety.
Other active global corporations included e-commerce and cloud computing behemoth Amazon, with 13 returns on the Register of Lobbying, and search engine giant Google, which submitted eight returns.
The main policy areas of concern to Amazon included: economic development, taxation and development and zoning. Google communicated with officials on issues concerning online safety, the EU Digital Single Market and data privacy.
Of the thousands of returns submitted last year, the vast majority were categorised under the policy area of health, with over 1,420 returns.
The contentious Public Health (Alcohol Bill), aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, was cited in 111 returns from both advocates and opponents of the bill that will introduce advertising restrictions.
Groups lobbying on behalf of the drinks industry included the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, Heineken’s Irish unit, airport operator DAA, Retail Excellence and the Responsible Retailers of Alcohol Ireland.
Housing, development and zoning matters accounted for a combined 774 returns, while agriculture accounted for just over 720 submissions.
Some 680 returns were attributed to matters concerning public expenditure and reform, the Budget and finance policy.
With negotiations continuing last year on Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the European Union, some 625 returns were filed for EU and foreign affairs throughout 2017. Brexit was cited in 520 submissions to the register overall.