Reshuffle prompts adviser turnover

For the special or press adviser, once their minister is out, so are they

Martin Fraser, the secretary general  at the  Department of the Taoiseach

Martin Fraser, the secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach

Fri, Aug 8, 2014, 13:44

The Cabinet reshuffle has led to something of a new regime at Government adviser level.

At a recent farewell drinks for those Labour advisers who lost their jobs, one Fine Gael figure gestured back towards a bar filled with people from both parties and asked journalists to remember the scene when next writing about tensions at the top of Government.

A short walk across the bar led to a private conversation with a Labour man who asked why “so many f***ing blueshirts” had turned up for the drinks. Old tensions die hard, it seems.

Disagreements

At times earlier this year, when disagreements between Fine Gael and Labour came quick and fast, but with varying ferocity, the relationships at adviser level became very strained, even when it was said to be still relatively civil between Ministers themselves, as well as between the Taoiseach and Tánaiste.

The breakdown in relationships had an effect on the workings of Government and trust across the Coaliton.

Many unelected officials at the shoulders of politicians scoff at the notion of West Wing type figures dictating the play, an idea that always draws the scorn of the unloved backbencher TDs who feel the advice of the elected representative should come first.

Yet it is an inescapable truth that these people – handlers, spinners, mandarins, apparatchiks, call them what you will – are a force behind the scenes, helping to keep government on the road.

Precarious position

The political adviser, appointed on a contract co-terminus with the minister who appoints them, is in a much more precarious position than the senior civil servants who serve the minister of the day, no matter who it is.

For the special or press adviser, once their minister is out, so are they, and the recent departure of Eamon Gilmore as tánaiste and leader of the Labour Party saw many of those working for him lose their jobs too.

New relationships will have to be built in Government to ensure things stay on track until the next election.

Here, we list the people who will work behind the scenes across Government departments to make sure the Coalition works during its final 18 months in office. Included are new appointees, or those moved to a new department as their Ministers switched jobs. Top of the list are the men and women who will advise the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.

Behind the scenes

Taoiseach’s office

Martin Fraser

Mr Fraser, the most senior civil servant in the country, is the secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach.

Mark Kennelly

Mr Kenny’s chief of staff, Mr Kennelly runs the Taoiseach’s office.

Andrew McDowell

Mr Kenny’s special adviser, Mr McDowell’s influence has grown in Government. He was the chief negotiator with Labour in the recent restatement of Government priorities.

Feargal Purcell

The Government press secretary is responsible for selling the Coalition’s message from the Taoiseach’s perspective.