Public Affairs Ireland | Training and Development | Conferences

Since late 2016, PAI has been hard at work developing our Update Series.

Legislation and regulation are two areas where progress and change are not only expected, but are essential to the proper workings of the systems. Therefore, even highly-trained professionals in sectors covered by legislative or regulatory changes will need to be constantly aware and regularly trained in new and upcoming changes to their sector.

In response to this, we have developed a series the Updates. These workshop-style sessions are ideal companions to our training and conferences, and work to build on a solid bedding of knowledge already expected of those working and operating in a particular sector.

Last Friday, PAI held two of these Updates. Below, you can find a summary of the main talking points at each of these sessions.

Update on Sale and Development of Public Lands

Friday 3 March

Cian MacGinley of Eversheds discussed the issue of right over the lands to be developed. His example outlined the case of Dartmouth Square Park. The Dublin 6 park was bought by a businessman for €10m after the public lease lapsed. The park fell into disrepair, to the chagrin of residents. The businessman said his development plans were stopped due to resident dissent. Eventually, the council were able to buy the park back, and a regeneration began.

This was followed by Mark Varian’s presentation, which outlined the different types of development agreements for large land development. In a development agreement, projects would be delivered “For a fixed price, by a stated time, to a stated specification”. This type of deal effectively transfers the risk from the employer or site owner to the others involved in the deal. However, this is just one of the “diverse procurement methods” applicable.

Eversheds’ Angelyn Rowan followed this by confirming “Public sector buying is a regulated industry that is becoming more regulated and more contentious”. The forthcoming Procurement legislation will, however, simplify the process and increase flexibility. It will also take into account societal goals. Also notable is the Electronic Availability of Procurement Documents under the legislation.

Ciaran Cuffe delved further into the types of agreements for development of public lands, including examples of where these types of contracts had been employed. Homelessness, it was noted, is still quite a big issue when considering the production of housing. Emphasis was placed on how many, of the total figure of Ireland’s homeless, are families or have dependents. The 2020 Social Housing Plan was discussed. In terms of the procurement processes that will be employed for those large scale projects, Prof. Cuffe said,

“Project Company will be selected via an advertised tender competition, held by the NDFA in accordance with EU and national procurement regulations.”

Update on Whistleblowers and Protected Disclosures

Friday 3 March

Barrister at Law, William Maher, opened our morning’s discussion on Protected Disclosures and Whistleblowers. Under Irish legislation, whistleblowers are protected. This ensures that employees can raise an alarm about any wrongdoing without fearing repercussions. The 2014 Act extended this protection to all worker, across all sectors. Under this Act, whistleblowers are protected from unfair dismissal and may be awarded “compensation of up to 5 years’ remuneration” if it does occur.

As has been seen of late, the revelation of a whistleblower can lead to adverse effects within the workplace. The balance is delicate: there may be “Potential conflict between obligation to keep the whistleblower’s identity confidential and the right to natural justice of the accused”.

ByrneWallace’s Emmett Whelan spoke in the late morning about the practicalities of dealing with protected disclosures. Through hypothetical scenarios, attendees could learn where and when to apply the correct procedures for protected disclosures. Issues to consider in situations where you believe you are receiving a protected disclosure include:

  • “Do you need to differentiate between a protected disclosure and a personal complaint?” and
  • “Does the information relate solely to a personal complaint or is it a mix of different issues?”

The importance of a proper investigation was stressed. When considering making a recording of any discussion which comes as a result of the whistleblowing, it is pertinent to remember that making secret recordings could breach data protection laws, and an individual’s right to privacy. As a first port of call, all employees should be aware of any policies in place within an organisation for making or dealing with whistleblowing and protected disclosures.

For more information on our Update series, and the upcoming topics, click here.

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