Sinn Féin spokesperson on Public Expenditure & Reform Mairéad Farrell TD said the events of ‘Gamblegate’ which broke yesterday “underscore the importance of the need to improve the regulation of lobbying in this state”.
Yesterday the Daily Mail broke the story of how a number of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs were wined and dined by the gambling industry at a hospitality tent race meeting in Punchestown.
This event took place just as the Oireachtas is preparing to regulate gambling for the first time in over a decade, amidst a major pushback from the industry.
Teachta Farrell said:
“It was certainly interesting timing that as mine and Teachta Pearse Doherty’s Regulation of Lobbying (amendment) Bill 2020 moved to the fourth stage of the Dail, the news was breaking about an informal lobbying event was being held by the gambling industry in advance of the Oireachtas’ attempt to bring greater regulation of the industry.
“Despite Ireland being the 4th highest in the world for gambling, with €5bn spent every year, we’ve been very slow when it comes to regulating the industry. So it’s little wonder that the industry sensing greater oversight and regulation is coming, has now gone on the charm offensive.
“Our Bill was introduced in the wake of D’Arcygate, another example of the weaknesses in our Lobbying regime.
“This event occurred when a former Junior Finance Minister sought to become the head of the Lobbying organisation for the Irish Funds industry, which he previously had responsibility for.
“His move would have breached the cooling off period, and in the process highlighted the awful revolving door situation which exists here.
“Our Bill would enact a multitude of recommendations from the Standards Commission (SIPO), thus giving them the kind of powers to properly regulate certain lobbying activities here. The Commission have been requesting these powers for years and they have been repeatedly ignored by the Government.
“When we introduced our Bill amidst the public outcry, the government initially delayed it for almost a year.
“They said they wanted to introduce their own bill instead. We have now had sight of it and it’s currently before the Finance Committee. It has been roundly criticised by the Standards Commission and by Transparency International.
“It’s clear that the approach to the regulation of lobbying in this state has to change. Otherwise people will be worrying that it’s a case of ‘the Galway tent is dead, long live the Punchestown tent’.