Government spends more than €1.1m on social media advertising, new figures show

Coalition sources say it is up to each department to decide whether to continue advertising with X

Government departments have spent more than €1.1 million on social media advertising this year across platforms such as Meta, X and Google, new figures reveal.

Labour Party TD Ged Nash queried each department on their social media advertising spend for 2023 to date, last year and the year before. According to responses from each department, the total spent was €1.1 million this year, €835,000 in 2022 and €857,000 in 2021.

To date this year, various departments have spent more than €130,000 on X, formerly known as Twitter. It comes amid tension with X, after the social media giant disputed claims by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee that it did not engage with the Government in relation to the Dublin riots. A Government source said it will be up to each individual department whether to continue advertising with X.

In recent months, major companies such as Apple, Disney and Warner Bros have suspended their advertising on the platform, which has struggled to retain advertisers since Elon Musk acquired the company in October 2022.


The Labour Party has now called on the Government to publish an analysis of the effectiveness and impact of the spending, with the party also highlighting issues around disinformation on social media platforms.

According to the data supplied to Mr Nash, the Department of Foreign Affairs spent €122,000 on Meta advertising this year, and €113,000 advertising on Google, and a further €10,000 on X.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that, in recent years, public awareness campaigns in relation to Covid-19 travel restrictions and Brexit have formed a significant part of advertising costs. The department also said that its spend on advertising and public awareness campaigns is primarily conducted through a third party agency with the “aim of maximising the audience reach, without direct engagement or financial transactions with social media organisations such as Twitter/X” and other social media platforms.

Meanwhile the Department of Environment spent more than €137,000 on Meta, more than €70,000 on Google and €52,000 on X this year. The department said that “as the media landscape has evolved over the past number of years, advertising expenditure has grown to address the diverse needs of different audiences, and [to] ensure that we are meeting our Irish language advertising”.

The third-highest spender was the Department of Social Protection which spent €115,000 on Meta advertising, €59,000 on Google and €43,000 on X.

Mr Nash said there are “massive disparities” in spends across departments.

“Labour is calling on Government to publish an analysis on the impact and effectiveness of these spends in reaching people to inform them of Government initiatives,” Mr Nash said.

“It would also be interesting to establish how spend with social media companies compares against established and regulated print and broadcast media, especially against trusted local radio and newspapers [which] are essential for the functioning of our democracy.”

He also raised concerns around the proliferation of disinformation across social media platforms.

“The other side is we know that these platforms like X and Meta are abjectly failing to tackle the rise of mis- and disinformation,” Mr Nash said.

“We saw just how dangerous that can be in our capital city last month. We saw during Covid-19 how important a role social media companies could play in spreading the facts about Covid, with posts on Instagram including a disclaimer and resources, for example.”

He called on the relevant platforms to “step up and play a proactive role” and said the “Government has the leverage to demand action on this”.

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Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times