11 Mar 2012
IFA SUBMISSION ON REGISTER OF LOBBYISTSOireachtas
In its submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the regulation of lobbyists, the Irish Farmers’ Association said it would resist strongly any proposals to list all contacts between IFA officers and staff and public representatives/officials.
The IFA is a professional representative organisation with a membership of over 87,000 farmers. It is a voluntary organisation of farmers and has a democractic structure of representation to ensure the views of members are effectively represented at local, county and national level.
IFA acts openly on behalf of its members. Submissions, policy proposals and views are widely published in the farming, local and national media. In addition, IFA regularly makes written communications to Government Ministers and senior civil servants on issues relating to the food and agriculture sector, and the wider rural economy.
With an officership cohort in excess of 3,700 individuals, and executive staff engaged in daily contacts/meetings with public representatives/officials, any such requirement would be totally impractical, highly wasteful of resources and prohibitively costly, especially for a voluntary organisation such as IFA.
The submission also recommends that the burden of reporting must rest with the public officer, as is the case with the current Ethics in Public Office legislation. “This is fully justified on the grounds of efficiency, practicality and resources as public officers’ diaries will contain all relevant meetings and officials have access to support staff to produce records.”
The IFA submission points out that membership organisations such as IFA have a public profile and accountability in respect of their positions on legislative and policy development, which is not the case for bodies/individuals lobbying privately for commercial gain. Therefore, there is no justification for membership organisations such as IFA to be required to make more than an annual return.
IFA is prepared to make an annual return including:
<span>§ </span>the full list of national officers, including President, Deputy-President, Regional Vice-Presidents, National Treasurer/Returning Officer, National Committee Chairmen and County Chairmen;
<span>§ </span>the list of professional executive staff engaged in lobbying, and
<span>§ </span>a statement of the organisation’s structure, objects and policies.
IFA has no difficulty with this information being made fully available to the public through an electronic register.