Sunday 22 October 2017

Second special adviser in two months quits their role under Jobs Minister

Jobs Ministers Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Photo: David Conachy
Jobs Ministers Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Photo: David Conachy
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

To lose one special adviser may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two looks like carelessness, to borrow a line from Oscar Wilde.

However, the announcement that Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor was saying farewell to another adviser less than two months after the resignation of ex-TV3 broadcaster Alan Cantwell did not come as a major shock to political observers in Leinster House.

To put it mildly, Ms Mitchell O'Connor is gaining a reputation as an employer with a fast turnover of staff. She saw parliamentary assistants come and go as a TD and one of her ministerial drivers left soon after she was appointed minister.

The latest to go was Jim McGrath, a well-respected political adviser who survived five years working for former Environment Minister Alan Kelly. It was expected that his time working for th#e brash and outspoken Mr Kelly would prepare him for anything.

Mr McGrath departed on good terms and in the press release announcing his decision to resign, Ms Mitchell O'Connor praised his professionalism and hard work. But there were clearly difficulties, as there were between the minister and Mr Cantwell.

The first-time minister, it is said, does not take instruction well from her staff but at the same time lays the blame at their door when things do not go according to plan.

She would often be seen brushing aside Mr Cantwell when he tried to brief her during important press conferences. In November, Mr Cantwell decided it was time to move on. Friends of Mr McGrath highlighted the treatment of Mr Cantwell and other staff as one of his reasons for leaving.

"He enjoyed working with Mary and it was always amicable and cordial but I think the relationship had been exhausted," the friend said. The source said Mr McGrath was "a cool head" during crisis and loyal to the minister but "wasn't impressed" by her management style.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation essentially runs itself and most of the heavy lifting is done by Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority (IDA). Ms Mitchell O'Connor oversees their work but her main role is to attend meetings with international firms thinking of setting up in Ireland.

A department source said the minister has impressed at some of these events but on other occasions clearly was not on top of her brief.

"The media coverage of her has been unfair but she doesn't do herself any favours," the source said.

Former IDA communications executive Ellen Lynch takes over from Mr McGrath shortly and will have her work cut out.

Irish Independent

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