By Cate McCurry, PA
Sinn Féin is to table a Bill to tighten Ireland’s lobbying regulations following the Katherine Zappone controversy.
The Bill would see the so-called cooling off period extended to two years, which restricts people who have served in Government from engaging in lobbying.
The rules apply to ministers, ministers of state and special advisers who want to become a lobbyist.
Sinn Féin TD Mairead Farrell said she wants to extend the period from one year to two years.
It comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding Ms Zappone’s appointment as a UN special envoy.
The long-running saga has been dragging on for two months since the appointment of the former children’s minister emerged.
Ms Farrell claimed that public confidence in political life has been “eroding”.
“I think it’s high time that we say that we will put a stop to the revolving door between government and vested interests and the whole idea of lobbying,” she added.
“We drafted a Bill in relation to lobbying which will be going before committee.
“It’s an important piece of legislation whereby it would mean any breaches of a code of conduct would be able to have certain consequences and the breach of the cooling off period would therefore have consequences.
“The cooling off period would be extended for a period of one year to two years.
“I’m also bringing forward a Bill in relation to Freedom of Information. We have heard Government say there are no issues to do with FOI, but we know for a long time that transparency campaigners have been saying there are issues, so we are bringing forward a piece to strengthen that Bill.”
The party is to table a no-confidence motion in Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney over his role in the appointment of Ms Zappone.
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald defended the decision to table the motion.
“A lot has been said in the aftermath of the Merriongate and the whole Zappone controversy, the Taoiseach failed to do his job in failing to sanction his minister,” Ms McDonald said.
“Therefore the opposition will do ours. We were really left with no option but to move this no confidence motion.
“People will correctly say that the pressing issue on people’s minds are housing and health and that is absolutely true.
“But we also know that the insider crony culture that has marked Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in administrations now for a century has to stop.
“It’s a mess of the Government’s making – and Simon Coveney has never given a credible explanation for what happened.”