At its meeting on Wednesday (8th September), the Government approved proposals by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD, that his Department undertake a review of Ethics legislation.

Welcoming the Government’s decision, Minister McGrath said: “I am grateful to my colleagues for the endorsement that they have given my Department’s proposed review of the statutory framework for ethics in public life.

“Our commitment in the Programme for Government to “reform and consolidate the Ethics in Public Office legislation” addresses one of the last pieces of unfinished business arising from the controversies and critical examination of our standards in public life that arose in a number of occasions over the last twenty years. This review is a first step in delivering on this commitment.

“Specifically, it launches a process by which this Government seeks to respond to outstanding recommendations of the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals, some ten years after they issued. The review will also take account of more recent developments such as:

  • the ‘Hamilton Report’ recommendations on preventing economic crime and corruption, published last year;
  • the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) recommendations on reform of our statutory framework for ethics; and
  • the Standards in Public Office Commission’s experience of administering the current framework.

“The review’s outcome will inform proposals for legislative reform that I will bring to government in the coming months.

“My ultimate goal is a fit-for-purpose, easy to understand and user-friendly ethical framework that contributes to the quality and effectiveness of our public administration by addressing risks of abuse for personal gain.”

Background

The review proposed by the Minister includes the following elements – some of which have already been completed:

  • A review of Ireland’s existing ethics legislative framework;
  • A review of the recommendations of relevant tribunals of inquiry;
  • A review of recommendations of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) based on its operation of the current regime – and consideration of ethical questions that have arisen since 2017;
  • Consultations with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on the local government aspects of a consolidated statutory regime.
  • A review of current EU/International best practice; and
  • A Public Consultation – Consultations with various parties.

The review is expected to be completed by end 2021 and Minister McGrath will then return to government with proposals.