Saturday 18 August 2018

Leo's new PR unit to get tips from May advisers

Leo Varadkar meeting Theresa May in June. Photo: PA
Leo Varadkar meeting Theresa May in June. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Leo Varadkar's controversial Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) is taking advice from Theresa May's own government team, the Irish Independent has learned.

Two members of the unit travelled to London in recent weeks to meet officials in Downing Street.

The meeting comes amid a series of public spats within the British administration over the prime minister's approach to Brexit.

Since its inception, the SCU has been under intense scrutiny from Opposition parties, which claim the Taoiseach is obsessed with PR and spin.

But Mr Varadkar has claimed the unit will be cost neutral and never involve itself in party-political work.

Asked about the unit's contacts with the UK government, a Government spokesman confirmed two members recently made a fact-finding trip to London.

The unit is headed up by the former boss of Culture Ireland, John Concannon, and the former EU presidency spokeswoman, Andrea Pappin.

"The Irish Government plans to adhere to the highest international standards for improving and modernising Government communications.

"Two members of the Strategic Communications Unit travelled to London to meet with key members of the UK government communications team.

"These meetings were to learn best practice about a number of topics, including digital communications, from the country ranked number one for eGovernment by the UN," the spokesman said.

He noted that both staff members travelled economy class, adding that all costs would be published on the Department of Taoiseach website in due course.

Mr Varadkar has repeatedly been forced to defend setting up the unit in one of his key actions since taking over as Taoiseach in June.

He has said communications is "an essential part of effectiveness of any modern organisation".

There are already six public and civil servants assigned to the SCU through secondment or reallocation of staff.

Irish Independent

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