Wednesday 23 January 2019

Mounting calls for Varadkar to scrap 'spin unit'

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Pressure on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to scrap the €5m Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) in his department is set to rise further when the Dáil returns this week.

Mr Varadkar has announced a "general review" of the unit in the wake of controversy over his awareness campaign for 'Project Ireland 2040'.

But Sinn Féin is now threatening to table a motion calling for the SCU's disbandment, which is likely to be supported by both Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party.

Amid mounting claims that the unit has been used to promote Fine Gael's electoral chances rather than Government initiatives, Education Minister Richard Bruton said it was correct to spend taxpayers' money advertising the National Development Plan. He said it's important people understand the plan and "engage with it".

But Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin said it was evidence the "Taoiseach was set on self-advancement and self-promotion".

"It is clear from the outset that promoting the political agenda of Fine Gael has always been at the heart of this project," he said.

Similarly Fianna Fáil's Darragh O'Brien described Mr Varadkar as a "media-obsessed and spin-obsessed Taoiseach".

He said the Government was "jeopardising the independence of the civil service in certain parts".

Sinn Féin's Eoin Ó Broin told RTÉ's 'The Week in Politics' his party was "seriously considering tabling a motion for that Strategic Communications Unit to be disbanded".

"Leo Varadkar needs to step up to the plate and say he's got this wrong. If they want to then put in place something else to review Government communications, that's fine," he said.

Irish Independent

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