The Health Lobby
Irish Pharmaceutical Union
What Is it? The IPU represents 1,400 pharmacies in Ireland. Long a closed shop, pharmacists face a deregulated future.
Main Figures: Dr Karl Hilton has just succeeded Richard Collis as president.
Main gripes: The growing role of major corporate chains in the Irish pharmaceutical business - it claims that, following deregulation in 2002, Ireland has the most open pharmacy market in Europe. Pharmacists also claim that giving them greater powers to prescribe certain drugs could save E100m on the annual drugs bill.
What It has done to date: The IPU reacted angrily to the report of the Pharmacy Review Group in February, insisting it threatened the future of independent pharmacists and could severely limit the availability of medicines in parts of rural Ireland.
The future: The IPU's tactics are seen as scaremongering by many, and the Competition Authority has said that trying to deny the huge margins and profits in the business is like trying to hide an elephant behind a sofa. A hint at the shape of things to come is the announcement by Boots that it is to invest €43m to open 13 new Irish stores over the next three years.
Irish Hospital Consultants' Association
What is it? Representing the big fish in the healthcare swamp, the co-operation of the IHCA's 1300 members is vital to any reform-minded minister for health.
Main Figures: Secretary general Finbarr Fitzpatrick is well-practised in defending his members from allegations of greed, arrogance, preferential treatment for private patients and resistance to change that regularly surface.
Main gripes: Consultants believe they are too often the scapegoats for health service ills. Yet vocal complaints about hospital overcrowding looked somewhat disingenuous last year - a major report claimed that consultants routinely neglected ward rounds and held on to beds for their own private patients. Most recently a row with Health Minister Michael Martin over a new State indemnity scheme nearly led to strike action. Consultants say it would not cover historic claims and some doctors could face financial ruin.
What it's done to date: The consultants' first-ever strike action was deferred but not before they branded Minister Martin's handling of the dispute as "bordering on the incompetent".
The future: Hiring a public relations firm to assist in the latest campaign and national media advertising to highlight the plight of members show that consultants mean business. Frustrated patients on endless waiting lists can only hope that their real concerns overlap with those of the most powerful people at the hospital.
The Irish Medical Organisation
What Is it? Formed in 1984, it's a wonder that the IMO's 5,000 members ever have time to meet considering their mammoth hours on the wards.
Main Figures: George McNeice (above) has been chief executive since 1993, but Fintan Hourihan acts as spokesman on crucial industrial relations issues.
Main gripes: Long hours for junior doctors - few would argue it is healthy for anyone to work up to 100 hours per week. The implementation of the EU's Working Time Directive is a key objective - it would ultimately introduce a 48-hour week.
What it's done to date: Refuting criticism that last year's ten-week strike by public health doctors increased the risk of a SARS outbreak, the organisation went on to negotiate a large pay increase for its members.
The future: The 48-hour week will not be so easily achieved. Despite earlier promises from the Health Minister, the Taoiseach has said it is "next to impossible" to reduce working hours to 48 by August. Indeed, not every doctor wants to see the end of a system that can net them over €100,000 a year.
The Leisure Lobby
What is it? The representative body for the independent retail grocery sector in Ireland - often regarded as the militant wing of Musgrave.
Main Figures: Its vocal director general, Ailish Forde, is to leave the job in June to move to Italy for a sabbatical. A replacement has yet to be announced.
Main gripes: Any change in the retail planning guidelines that would remove the cap on the size of out-of-town superstores and the ban on below-cost selling.
What has it done to date? Reading RGDATA's website, one would be mistaken for thinking it is running the country - it includes important legislation such as the Casual Trading Act 1980, the Ban on Below-Cost Selling Advertising 1981, the Planning Directive 1982, the Planning Directive for Superstores 1998, the Groceries Order 1987 and the Retail Planning Guidelines 2001 among its achievements.
The future: May find its ability to influence local politicians by painting a picture of the decimation of towns, villages and communities by large out-of-town shopping centres increasingly under threat from a consumer desire for the goods and services offered by these kinds of stores.
Vintners' Federation of Ireland
Who are they? The representative body of the people who serve us beer and crisps. Due to the prevalence of publicans among our political rulers, it has long been regarded as one of the strongest lobby groups in Ireland.
Main Figures: Fronted by chief executive Tadg O'Sullivan (above), well-known for his forceful style and making strongly worded pronouncements on the demise of publicans' way of life.
Main gripes: Until March 29 this year, the proposed ban on smoking in the workplace was the only thing about which publicans were talking. Now that the world has not ended and publicans continue to thrive, the VFI is busying itself with other issues of national importance such as the 9pm watershed for under 21s.
What has it done to date? More like what they haven't done - failed to stop the smoking ban from being introduced. But claims success in a number of other areas, such as lobbying the Government to strengthen the right of the publican to refuse service to any customer and influencing the Government to keep the tax down on drink.
The future: The VFI's failure to halt the introduction of the smoking ban has been heralded by many as a sign of a decline in its ability to influence national policy.
The Multiple Retail Chains
What is it? In the food and grocery sector, the main players are Dunnes, Tesco, Superquinn and, increasingly, Aldi and Lidl. In the DIY and home furnishings sector, Atlantic Homecare, Woodie's, Homebase and B&Q are the main players.
Main Figures: Gordon Fryett, Tesco; Frank Dunne, Dunnes; Ian Duffy, B&Q; Leo Martin, MD of Heitons (owner of Atlantic Homecare); Michael Chadwick, MD of Grafton (owner of Woodie's). Main gripe The 6,000 sq m cap on retail stores is a major issue for multiples, particularly for UK players who have a typical store size of 28,000 sq m at home. Also the ban on below-cost selling which many regard as anti-competitive.
What has it done to date? Publicly, individual multiples have firmly held the line on their chief gripes without being overly vocal. However, behind the scenes, it is understood that various multiples have being making representations for major changes and are conducting a PR campaign to ensure this happens.
The future: The multiple retailers are big employers and are promising to create more employment if they can build the kinds of stores they have been lobbying for, making them a powerful force. The general feeling is that there will be some compromise on the guidelines.