Policy & Research

As the professional body for those working in Public Relations and communications PRII conducts research and advocates on behalf of the profession.

In recent years this work has focused on the areas of Regulation of Lobbying, Social Media Influencer Guidelines, copyright reform and the development of the industry itself.

Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015

Many members of the PRII interact regularly with public servants and elected officials as part of their work. The PRII believes that  such work, normally described as public affairs practice or lobbying, is proper, legitimate and necessary activity, which ensure open two-way communication between European, national and local institutions on the one hand, and stakeholders whose activities and interests are governed, regulated, impacted or otherwise influenced by such institutions on the other.

On the September 1 2015, after many years of discussion and debate, the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 came into effect. Anyone engaged in lobbying, is requited to report relevant activity every four months and returns are published on www.lobbying.ie. The PRII has been active in promoting compliance with the Act among members, with almost 200 PRII members attending more than a dozen half-day workshops on compliance with the Act. The PRII has also been active in highlighting concerns and suggesting improvements to the legislation. In that regard, the Institute made a detailed submission to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in September 2016. That submission is available here.

Defamation Law Review

Public relations and communications professionals have unique exposure to Ireland’s defamation legislation; on one-side they are conscious of it in terms of the protection it offers to their client or employer’s reputation, but on the other side, they are exposed to it in terms of their own publishing on social media, in press releases or website content.

Therefore in response to the Department of Justice“s review of the Defamation Act in late 2016, the PRII surveyed its members and sought further contributions on the topic. The survey highlighted a broad consensus among members that there was need for reform regarding:

  • how online defamation is treated;
  • the Press Council’s powers; and
  • reform of the judicial process.

Those areas form the basis of PRII’s submission and it makes the following proposals to the Department of Justice’s Defamation Act 2009 review:

  1. Section 27 of the 2009 Act (which allows for the defence of innocent publication by internet service providers and social media platforms), should be made contingent on such bodies complying with new, statutory requirements in terms of how they handle complaints concerning defamation;
  2. that trials before the High Court for defamation be, in general, only tried before judges;
  3. that the Press Council be given the ability to levy fines;
  4. that the provisions of the 2009 Act be updated so that all publishers are eligible for membership of the Press Council, including broadcasters such as RTÉ in respect of their online content;
  5. that the public relations and communications profession be represented on the Press Council; and
  6. that there be a statutory review of the legislation every three years by the Minister.

Read the full submission here.

Copyright Reform

The issue of copyright is one that impacts upon many members of the PRII, particularly around the sharing of news. In the summer of 2016, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell-O'Connor TD published announced that the Government was drafting a new bill: the General Scheme of the Copyright and Related Rights (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016. Unfortunately, the details of the General Scheme of the Bill has not been published as of yet.

In the general information published with regard to this legislation, on area of importance that does not appear to be covered relates to the issue of copyright in links. There have been attempts by various parties in a number of jurisdictions, including Ireland, to have regimes whereby the sharing a link would be an infringement of copyright and therefore, publishers can charge third parties for so using links. This is obviously incompatible with a digital society, and would be a major issue for professionals like PRII members who, as part of their jobs, will share links in emails, through social media and on websites. This matter has been somewhat clarified on a European level, but for the avoidance of doubt this should be reflected in Irish legislation as well.

This was among the issues considered by the 2013 Copyright Review Committee which made specific recommendations relating to this matter. In its report, the Committee stated:

“Interconnectedness by linking is at the very heart of the internet, so we recommend that linking should not infringe copyright, except where the provider of the link knew or ought to have been aware that it connects with an infringing copy. We further recommend that it should not be an infringement of copyright to reproduce a very small snippet of the linked work reasonably adjacent to the link, and that a very small snippet should consist of no more than either 160 characters or 2.5% of the work, subject to a cap of 40 words (section 14 of the Bill).”

This is an important issue for the public relations and communications profession. The sharing of links in a variety of formats is an intrinsic part of the communications professionals job and there is little case to be made for limiting it. If publishers wish to charge for their content, that should be done through paywalls and other such means at the point of entry to a site, rather than through the sharing of a link. Therefore we have been in contact with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation seeking clarity on this matter and the Department has confirmed that there is no current proposal to bring in legislation on this matter.

The PRII has also taken part in a 2016 Consultation by the European Commission on this matter. Our contribution can be accessed here through the link for organisations registered on the European Transparency Register.

Corporate Governance Standard for Government Departments

In December 2014, the PRII has made a submission to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform's consultation on a proposed Corporate Governance Standard for Government Departments. This Standard is to be the benchmark for corporate governance in the civil service and it is the first time that such an initiative has been developed. The initial document produced by the Department is available here.

Therefore, the PRII has made a short submission, which is available here.

As is increasingly recognised internationally, communication is essential to good corporate governance in any organisation. This is especially the so with regard to the public service. However while the importance of effective communications is clear in terms of the achievements of the aims of good corporate governance, little regard is given to it explicitly within the draft document. Neither is communications given sufficient regard in the specific proposals within the document.

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