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Ireland

Encourage, Protect and Raise Awareness of Whistleblower Duties and Protections (IE0015)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Ireland, First Action Plan, 2014-16

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Public Expenditure & Reform

Support Institution(s): Trade unions, relevant civil society organisations and employer representative bodies involved.

Policy Areas

Whistleblower Protections

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ireland End-of-Term Report 2014-2016, Ireland 2014-2015 IRM Progress Report (Final)

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Outstanding Outstanding

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Communicate and increase awareness of the role of whistleblowing, the proper treatment of whistleblowers and the availability of whistleblowing protection consistent with the Protected Disclosures legislation.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

(✪) 3.5: Whistleblower Duties and Protections

Commitment Text:

Action 3.5 - Communicate and increase awareness of the role of whistleblowing, the proper treatment of whistleblowers and the availability of whistleblowing protection consistent with the Protected Disclosures legislation

Responsible institution: Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER)

Supporting institution(s): Trade Unions, relevant CSOs and employer representative bodies

Start date: July 2014                                                                     End date: December 2014

Editorial note: Commitment 3.5 is clearly relevant to OGP values as written, has transformative potential impact, and is substantially or completely implemented and therefore qualifies as a starred commitment. 

Commitment Aim

Protected Disclosures legislation (or Whistleblowing legislation), as outlined in this commitment, provides a regulatory framework in which workers can raise concerns about potential wrongdoings in the workplace, knowing that they can be protected if they are penalized by their employer for whisteblowing. Such a comprehensive legal framework had not been fully put into place until the action plan. This Action thus relates to solving the problem of unfair penalization by developing whistleblower legislation in order to protect public and private workers in Ireland and subsequently raising the awareness of whistleblower duties and protections.

Status

Midterm: Complete

Before OGP participation, in 2012, the Irish government was working on developing whistleblower legislation, which was part of its 2011 Programme for Government. In July 2013, and at the same time the first action plan consultations were taking place, the Protected Disclsores Bill was launched. For the first time, a comprehensive bill was developed in Ireland to protect workers from all sectors of the economy who reported concerns  about potential wrongdoings happening in the workplace. The Protected Disclosures Act was completed in year one of the action plan.

This Act, heavily influenced by civil society actors, is today considered to be one of the most robust pieces of legislation in the world on the theme, as discussed in full in the IRM midterm report. Since July 2014, the government has conducted awareness raising of the legislation in two ways. First, state actors notified employers and employees of whistleblowing legislation, providing guidance on key themes, such as what is meant by a protected disclosure, what matters can be reported on, who is protected, and how does a worker report concerns. Second, there was extensive media coverage on the protection gained by workers with the new whistleblowers legislation,[Note 50: See The Irish Times report of November 24, 2015, http://www.irishtimes.com/news/crime-and-law/whistleblowers-enjoy-layers-of-protection-under-act-1.2010529  (last accessed September 18, 2016)] as well as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, making keynote addresses on the issue, such as to the Irish Whistleblowing Law Society Inaugaral Event on July 2015.[Note 51: Minister Howlin’s speech to the Irish Whistleblowing Law Society was entitled ‘Protected Disclosures: the Legislation One Year on,’ held on 14th July 2015. Further information on this event can be found on:  http://www.lawlibrary.ie/News/Bar-Council-hosts-Irish-Whistleblowing-Law-Society.aspx (last accessed September 15, 2015)]

Although the commitment was completed in year one of the action plan, year two has seen important supplementary initiatives taken by the state related to this commitment as seen in government self-assessment and in discussion with civil society actors. These include further public consultations offering guidance on the act (Q3, 2015), and securing funding of EUR 300,000 to be allocated to Transparency International, with the aim of raising public awareness on the issue and to provide free and independent legal advice to those considering making a protected disclosure.

Did it open government?

Civic participation: Outstanding

Public accountability: Outstanding

The new legislation broke a historical barrier in Ireland where exployees were reluctant to speak up against wrongdoing in the workplace.[Note 52: See page 14 of the article by L. Kierans: http://www.cpaireland.ie/docs/default-source/Members/Publications/a-whistle-stop-tour-of-the-protected-disclosures-act-2014.pdf?sfvrsn=2  ] A Transparency International Ireland report of 2011 pointed out that Ireland’s sectoral approach to whistleblowing had many shortcomings.[Note 53: An Alternative to Silence, Transparency International Ireland Report 2011 http://transparency.ie/sites/default/files/2010_Alternative_to_Silence_Ireland_v1.pdf%5D With the new law, Ireland’s legislation is amongst the most comprehensive when compared to other EU countries.[Note 54: https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/articles/law-and-regulation/new-developments-in-the-protection-of-whistle-blowers-in-the-workplace%5D It poses outstanding changes to public accountability, on two main fronts. First, given the broad nature of the legislation, it now regulates wrongdoings in both the public and the private workforce. Its overarching scope empowers all working citizens to report wrongdoing, with protections not limited to specific sectors of public service. Secondly, because the commitment has shed light not only on politics in Ireland, in general, but also workplace politics, citizens now have improved opportunities to influence decisions that affect them. It is still early, but the IRM found at least one case of the Act being used outside the sectoral scope whistleblowing legislation had prior to its approval, with a whistleblower who “has made allegations of financial mismanagement in the University of Limerick.”[Note 55: On this see: http://bit.ly/1K7ciAU%5D The Act has also set in place redress mechanisms for employers that have been dismissed or penalised for reporting wrongdoing in the workplace.[Note 56: http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/enforcement_and_redress/protection_for_whistleblowers.html and http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/unemployment_and_redundancy/dismissal/unfair_dismissal.html%5D Organizations like Transparency International Ireland have commited to continue close monitoring of the implementation of the Act as it continues to be rolled out. In collaboration with the government, through the Minister of Public Expenditure and Reform, they launched an initiative in September 2016 to provide training, guidance, expert advice and online resources to promote safe environments for anyone reporting wrongdoing.[Note 57: Integrity at Work http://transparency.ie/integrity-work%5D

Carried forward?

This commitment is complete and was not carried forward into the next action plan. Implementation is ongoing as expected and the IRM researcher does not see a need to include it in further action plans.

 


Ireland's Commitments

  1. Promote Transparent Climate Policy Development

    IE0031, 2016, Environment and Climate

  2. Support Public Participation Networks

    IE0032, 2016, Capacity Building

  3. Improve Access to Justice: Reducing Costs

    IE0033, 2016, Judiciary

  4. Improve Access to Justice: Framework to Assist Vulnerable Persons

    IE0034, 2016, Judiciary

  5. Improve Access to Justice: Oversight of Legal Practitioners

    IE0035, 2016, Justice

  6. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: General

    IE0036, 2016, Capacity Building

  7. Enhance Citizen Engagement in Policy Making: Youth

    IE0037, 2016, Marginalized Communities

  8. Enhance Customer Engagement

    IE0038, 2016, Capacity Building

  9. Improve Access To Government Services Through Technology

    IE0039, 2016, Capacity Building

  10. Participatory Budgeting

    IE0040, 2016, Participation in Budget Processes

  11. Improve Transparency of Government Service Providers

    IE0041, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  12. Enhance Fiscal Transparency

    IE0042, 2016, Fiscal Transparency

  13. Introduce Modern Document Management Procedures

    IE0043, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  14. Develop an Open Data Strategy 2017-2020

    IE0044, 2016, E-Government

  15. Invest in Data Infrastructure that will result in better Open Data

    IE0045, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  16. Starred commitment Develop a Code of Practice for the Governance of Charities

    IE0046, 2016,

  17. Starred commitment Public Sector Standards Bill

    IE0047, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  18. Establish a Register of Beneficial Ownership

    IE0048, 2016, Asset Disclosure

  19. Establishment of best practice standards for Open Data

    IE0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  20. Establishment of Ireland’s Open Data Platform

    IE0002, 2014, E-Government

  21. Undertake an audit of key datasets for publication

    IE0003, 2014, Open Data

  22. Establish a roadmap for the Open Data and an evaluation framework to provide assessment of the ongoing Open Data

    IE0004, 2014, Open Data

  23. Establishment of an Open Data Ireland Governance Board (ODIGB) and Steering and Implementation Group (SIG) for Open Data Ireland

    IE0005, 2014, Open Data

  24. Signing up to the G8 Open Data Charter

    IE0006, 2014, Open Data

  25. Implementing Open Data

    IE0007, 2014, Open Data

  26. Improve computer literacy through implementation of proposed new Digital Strategy for Schools

    IE0008, 2014, Capacity Building

  27. Review national and international practice to develop revised principles / code for public engagement/consultation with citizens, civil society and others by public bodies.

    IE0009, 2014, Public Participation

  28. Starred commitment Hold referenda arising from the recommendations of the Constitutional Convention

    IE0010, 2014, Gender

  29. Starred commitment Ethics Reform

    IE0011, 2014, Conflicts of Interest

  30. Strengthening Freedom of Information - Implement the Code of Practice for Freedom of Information (FOI).

    IE0012, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  31. Reform of FOI

    IE0013, 2014, Capacity Building

  32. Starred commitment Regulation of Lobbying

    IE0014, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  33. Starred commitment Encourage, Protect and Raise Awareness of Whistleblower Duties and Protections

    IE0015, 2014, Whistleblower Protections

  34. MEASURES TO INCREASE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION IN DECISION MAKING ON POLICY AND LEGISLATIVE PROPOSALS. Systemic pre-legislative scrutiny of draft bills

    IE0016, 2014, Legislation & Regulation

  35. Develop and deliver access to environmental information (AIE) training module for public officials

    IE0017, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. INCREASE CITIZEN PARTICIPATION AT LOCAL LEVEL. Pilot approach to implementation of Public Participation Networks

    IE0018, 2014, Private Sector

  37. Provide legal base for public participation framework in local government

    IE0019, 2014, Capacity Building

  38. Undertake a feasibility study on possible means of enabling further citizen engagement in local authority budgetary processes

    IE0020, 2014, Participation in Budget Processes

  39. SUPPORT CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE AS CITIZENS. Develop, finalise and publish the first Government Strategy on children and young people's participation in decision-making.

    IE0021, 2014, Capacity Building

  40. Maximise participation and understanding of young people in civic life

    IE0022, 2014, Capacity Building

  41. Development of an ICT Strategy

    IE0023, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  42. Data sharing and governance bill

    IE0024, 2014, E-Government

  43. Public Services Card

    IE0025, 2014, E-Government

  44. Single Customer View

    IE0026, 2014, E-Government

  45. Local Government Portal

    IE0027, 2014, E-Government

  46. New Local Enterprise Offices

    IE0028, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  47. Review and enhancement of complaints procedures and using feedback to improve services across the public service; A review of citizen complaints procedures will be undertaken.

    IE0029, 2014, Public Participation

  48. Enhance customer engagement

    IE0030, 2014, Public Participation