Regulation of lobbying is intended to shine a light on who is lobbying who and about what.  Lobbying is any communication which aims to influence decision-makers and the democratic decisions they make. From a democratic perspective understanding lobbying is important, because if we can better understand who our decision-makers are talking to and what information is available to them, we can better understand how decisions are made.  Lobbying has something of a bad reputation, but as I have argued elsewhere there is a strong democratic case for hearing multiple voices, and I have particularly made the case for the advocacy and campaigning work of civil society organisations.

Under the regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, if you are lobbying in Ireland then you have to register and submit a return every four months on Anyone can use this website to look at who has been lobbying.  The website has search functions by date, subject area, lobbying organisations and designated public officials.  I found it a bit awkward to export large quantities of data (i.e. every lobbying return in 2017), but, with a little help from my tech fairy, I got there in the end.

In 2017 (as of 28 December 2017), 913 organisations made 4,962 returns to the lobbying register. It is important to note that each return could contain multiple acts of lobbying (e.g. meetings, phone calls, texts, tweets, etc.); however, returns give us a good sense of who were the most active lobbyists in 2017. It is also likely that the numbers for 2017 will go up as organisations complete their returns in the coming months.  913 may seem like a lot of organisations, but in reality, the majority of returns were made by a much smaller group of organisations.  Of those 913 organisations, 117, or about 13% of organisations, made ten or more returns (accounting for just over 57% of all returns made in 2017). 323 organisations (35% of returners) made just one return – less than 1% of the overall 2017 returns.

As the Table below shows, IBEC was, by far, the most significant returner to the lobbying register, submitting 305 returns in 2017.  Of the top 10 returners (accounting for 21% of overall returns), eight were private business interests, and two were community and voluntary organisations (*sector designations are mine and nothing to do with the lobbying register, so feel free to disagree with me).  That picture changes however when you look at the top 50 returners (who account for 41% of all returns), where there is an even split between private, and community and voluntary organisations: 22 private interest bodies, 23 community and voluntary organisations, 2 trade unions, 1 public body, 1 sports organisations and 1 religious organisation. Actually, these figures refer to the top 51 returners because Dóchas and RTE are in joint 50th place with 17 returns each.


Table 1: Top 51 returning organisations to the lobbying register in 2017.

Organisation No. of Returns Sector*
1.     IBEC 305 private
2.     The Irish Farmers’ Association – IFA 213 private
3.     Macra na Feirme 149 private
4.     Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association 78 private
5.     Disability Federation of Ireland 71 C&V
6.     British Irish Chamber of Commerce 68 private
7.     Chambers Ireland 57 private
8.     Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies Ireland 43 private
9.     Cork Chamber 43 private
10.   Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals 35 C&V
11.   Irish Rural Link Co-Operative Society Limited 34 C&V
12.   Irish Cancer Society 32 C&V
13.   Oxfam Ireland 32 C&V
14.   American Chamber of Commerce Ireland 30 private
15.   Amnesty International Ireland 30 C&V
16.   Irish Tax Institute 30 private
17.   National Centre for Youth Mental Health 29 C&V
18.   Retail Excellence Ireland 29 private
19.   Uplift – A People Powered Community 29 C&V
20.   Children’s Rights Alliance 28 C&V
21.   Irish congress of trade unions 28 TU
22.   Inclusion Ireland 26 C&V
23.   Irish Heart Foundation 26 C&V
24.   Vintners’ Federation of Ireland 26 private
25.   Early Childhood Ireland 25 C&V
26.   Dublin Rape Crisis Centre 24 C&V
27.   IMPACT trade union 24 TU
28.   Irish Hotels Federation 24 private
29.   Veterinary Ireland 24 private
30.   National Youth Council of Ireland 23 C&V
31.   SAFE Ireland National Social Change Agency CLG 23 C&V
32.   Sisters of Mercy 23 religious
33.   SSE Plc 23 private
34.   Focus Ireland 22 C&V
35.   Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association 22 private
36.   Law Society of Ireland 22 private
37.   Peter McVerry Trust 22 C&V
38.   Shannon Group plc 22 private
39.   Simon Communities in Ireland 22 C&V
40.   Small Firms Association 22 private
41.   eircom Limited 21 private
42.   Engineers Ireland 21 *profesional membership
43.   Social Justice Ireland 21 C&V
44.   Age Action 20 C&V
45.   Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children 20 C&V
46.   Football Association of Ireland 19 sport
47.   Cavanagh Communications 18 private
48.   Hume Brophy 18 private
49.   Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed 18 C&V
50.   DOCHAS – The Irish Association of non-governmental development organisations 17 C&V
51.   RTE 17 public sector

*Amended at the request of Engineers Ireland (3.01.2018).  There are a number of bodies that might be better described as ‘professional membership bodies’.  It is a categorisation I will explore in future analysis.