Varadkar under pressure to reveal cost of new communications unit

Brendan Howlin described unit as ‘vanity propaganda project’ to promote Taoiseach’s image

 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has appointed marketing expert John Concannon to lead a new unit within Government. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has appointed marketing expert John Concannon to lead a new unit within Government. File photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has come under renewed pressure to detail the cost of the Government’s new Strategic Communications Unit.

Mr Varadkar has appointed marketing expert John Concannon to lead the new unit within Government.

However, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Labour leader Brendan Howlin have questioned the validity of the appointment.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mr Howlin described the new unit as a “vanity propaganda project” aimed at promoting the Taoiseach’s image.

The Labour leader claimed Mr Varadkar had hidden the appointment from public scrutiny.

He said: “We have been told who will head up the new unit, but not his salary or grade. We don’t know how many people will work in the unit. And we don’t know what it will cost the taxpayer.”

The aim of the new unit is to prepare a coherent message from Government and convey that to the general public.

Mr Concannon is a highly-respected and successful marketing expert who led the Government’s 1916 commemorations.

However, his salary has not been disclosed and the make-up or size of the unit has not been made available.

Mr Howlin alleges this is a parallel, propaganda unit to be established within the Department of An Taoiseach for political purposes.

He added: “The Taoiseach cannot hand-pick staff from across the public sector, and then claim that they are not political appointments. If this new unit does not have a political purpose, then all roles within it, including the most senior role, should be advertised and open to all civil servants to apply for.”