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


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.



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 coterminous 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.

Rory Montgomery

Mr Montgomery, also a civil servant, replaces Geraldine Byrne Nason as second secretary at the Department of the Taoiseach.

Tánaiste’s office

Edward Brophy

Mr Brophy moves from his position as Ms Burton’s special adviser in the Department of Social Protection to become the Tánaiste’s chief of staff.

Terry Quinn

Mr Quinn, on secondment from the Central Bank, will be Ms Burton’s chief economics adviser.

Paul O’Brien

The former Irish Examiner political editor is deputy Government press secretary with responsibility for selling the Labour message in Coalition.

Karen O’Connell and Claire Power

Ms Burton’s policy advisers, with Ms O’Connell liaising with the parliamentary Labour Party. David Leach and Ronan Farren

Labour’s political director and deputy political director respectively. Both employed by the party, they also worked under Eamon Gilmore’s leadership.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Lorraine Hall

Lost her position as press adviser to Alan Shatter upon his resignation as minister for justice but is now policy adviser to Ms Humphreys, and the pair are distant relatives.

Sarah Meade

Will be Ms Humphreys’s press adviser. She previously worked in the Fine Gael press office, where she handled numerous byelection and referendum campaigns over the past three and half years.

Charlie Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade

Sarah Kavanagh

Follows Mr Flanagan from the Department of Children to Iveagh House as special adviser. Ms Kavanagh, a barrister, was previously a Fine Gael parliamentary assistant.

Susie O’Connor

Mr Flanagan’s communications adviser. Ms O’Connor was formerly head of Young Fine Gael, as well as a full-time employee with the party.

Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment

Jim McGrath

Will be Mr Kelly’s communications adviser, and follows him from the Department of Transport. A Labour activist, he played a key role in Mr Kelly’s campaign for the party’s deputy leadership.

Alex White, Minister for Communications

Madeline Mulrennan

Was a special adviser to Mr White during his time as junior minister in the Department of Health, and takes up the same position in the Department of Communications.

Jan O’Sullivan, Minister for Education

Neil Ward

Special adviser to Ruairí Quinn and a Labour activist, stays on while another Labour activist, Paul Daly, will be Ms O’Sullivan’s press adviser.

Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport

Deborah Sweeney

Was special adviser to Mr Donohoe when he was minister for European affairs, and is now Mr Donohoe’s press adviser. She was previously deputy director of media and research for Fine Gael.

Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health

Brian Murphy

Follows Mr Varadkar from the Department of Transport to the Department of Health, keeping his position as special adviser. Mr Murphy is also a member of the Fine Gael executive council.

Nick Miller

Mr Varadkar’s press adviser, he has also moved to Hawkins House.