Gardaí paid top PR firm €120,000 for media training

Training for gardaí included mock radio and TV interviews

 Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at a press briefing. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at a press briefing. File photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons/The Irish Times.

 

The Garda has paid a PR firm more than €120,000 to provide media training to its top brass over the past two years.

New figures provided by Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald show that broadcaster Anton Savage’s Communications Clinic Ltd last year received €92,955 from the force.

According to the figures, the Dublin-based firm has received an additional €18,266 for the first quarter of this year and this follows €10,400 paid out in 2015.

Ms Fitzgerald said that the payments are for the firm providing media training to both Garda and civilian staff in An Garda Síochána.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, gardaí confirmed that 253 gardaí last year availed of training in various elements of the media.

A total of 127 superintendents availed of the media training course along with 30 chief superintendents, six assistant commissioners and one deputy commissioner. In addition, four directors availed of the media training course along with 24 inspectors, 16 sergeants, one Assistant Principal Officer, and four members from the Garda analysis service. Only five rank and file gardaí participated in the course.

The move by the Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to enlist the help of a professional PR firm was part of a new Garda communications strategy aimed at having gardaí across the country in several different units talking to the media.

In winning the contract, the Communications Clinic — which counts golfing superstar, Rory McIlroy as one of its blue-chip clients — beat off bids from 11 other PR firms.

The contract was for an initial year with an option to extend for a further three years. The Garda tender documentation initially estimated that the cost would be around €20,000 per annum or a total of €80,000 over the four years.

However, the costs for the first full-year of the contract has greatly exceeded the Garda estimate.

According to the FOI unit, the media trading programme for senior officers and managers enables An Garda Síochána to provide more spokespeople to the media in order to keep the public informed and to provide better engagement with the public. The documentation also says the training should provide attendees with the skills to be able to conduct media interviews; professionally deliver key messages, and deal with difficult and sustained questioning.

Also, as part of the training, Mr Savage’s firm ensure that the participants undertake a number of mock radio and TV interviews based on relevant scenarios and be provided with feedback on these interviews. The Dublin-based Communications Clinic employs 16 was and was sitting on accumulated profits of €709,289 at the end of March 2016.