Friday 15 December 2017

Minister sought good PR in local papers after rural criticism

Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD
Mary Mitchell O'Connor TD
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Mary Mitchell O'Connor wanted articles and pictures taken of her at the ploughing championships sent to newspapers "all over the country" after she was "slammed" over her record on creating rural jobs.

The Jobs Minister's instruction to her advisers is among correspondence showing she appears particularly concerned at criticism of her efforts in rural areas. On September 22 last, she emailed her advisers at 5.39am, sending them the first paragraph of a story that appeared in the 'Tipperary Star'. It stated that Fianna Fáil TD Jackie Cahill "slammed" the minister "for continuing to allow a two-tier Ireland take hold".

He quoted jobs figures from the previous government, saying almost half of IDA-supported jobs were in the greater Dublin area.

Four minutes after sending her first email, Ms Mitchell O'Connor wrote to her advisers: "I want Op-Eds [comment articles] going into local papers all over country." She added: "Get a pic of me at ploughing and with Kerrygold. Agri food, artisan food and farming will need to be referenced."

Email from Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Email from Mary Mitchell O'Connor

A spokeswoman for the minister last night said that "following further discussion" it was decided that all communications with regional newspapers "would be done around the regional action plan for jobs".

On a previous occasion, Ms Mitchell O'Connor sent her advisers a link to an RTÉ story headlined "Minister criticised over Roche job losses". The job losses were in Clare, Fine Gael TD Joe Carey's constituency, and he called on the minister to travel to the company's HQ in Switzerland to try to save the jobs. Ms Mitchell O'Connor asked her advisers to get her contact details for the pharmaceutical firm's boss in Co Clare and to get an update from the IDA on replacing the facility.

She also asked: "What about a trip to Swiss HQ?"

A spokeswoman confirmed that the minister didn't travel to Switzerland as it became clear that Roche's decision was final and such a trip "would not have changed the outcome". She said last night that: "All regions have seen an increase in employment."

Irish Independent

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