Taoiseach raises prospect of disbanding spin unit

Varadkar says communications unit has become a distraction from work of Government

The Taoiseach said that the degree of “Opposition spin” indicated that they did not want to talk about the substance of the plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The Taoiseach said that the degree of “Opposition spin” indicated that they did not want to talk about the substance of the plan. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said consideration will be given to disbanding the Government’s Strategic Communications Unit (SCU).

He said the unit had become a “distraction from the work of government” following the controversy over newspaper ‘advertorials’ promoting Project Ireland 2040.

Mr Varadkar was asked how he would respond to Opposition demands that the unit be scrapped when he was interviewed on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“Well look it, that’s something that’s going to have to be examined. The unit was set up with a view to modernising and professionalising the government communications. It’s had some success in that regard,” he said.

“But it was set up as a unit that was established to better explain the work of government and now it’s become a distraction from the work of government so as part of the review my sec gen [secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser] is doing, and that’s why I’m going to take a few weeks, then that is one of the options.”

Mr Varadkar has asked Mr Fraser to conduct a general review of the unit with a view to make further recommendations.

“Some things could have been done better, some things were too loose,” Mr Varadkar said.

However, Mr Varadkar said there was “scant evidence” to back up the claims of the Opposition that public money had been used to promote Fine Gael. He said the majority of advertorials in 160 regional papers did not feature any politicians; four featured non-office holders and only one of them was a selected Fine Gael candidate. “If there was a conspiracy here to promote Fine Gael, it wasn’t a good one.”

The Taoiseach said that the degree of “Opposition spin” indicated that they did not want to talk about the substance of the plan. “It’s a good plan.”

“This should be about substance not spin, but the Opposition just want to talk about spin.”