Wednesday 21 February 2018

PR unit 'will save taxpayer money', says Varadkar

John Concannon
John Concannon
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

The Government's under-fire strategic communications unit will eventually save the taxpayer money, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar has claimed that the unit, which Fianna Fáil said will be scrapped if it gains power, may also be opened to recruitment.

The unit itself is headed up by John Concannon, the Galway businessman and marketing guru who was behind the Wild Atlantic Way, The Gathering, Ireland 2016 and Creative Ireland.

He was head-hunted by Mr Varadkar for the job and is paid a salary of €122,000-€140,000. He serves at the rank of assistant secretary.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has accused Mr Varadkar of being obsessed with spin and has promised to scrap the unit if he becomes Taoiseach.

But in response to 13 parliamentary questions by Fianna Fáil this week, Mr Varadkar robustly defended the unit, saying it will save the State money.

"In fact, it is likely to give rise to a significant increase in value for money and a reduction in overall expenditure, over time," Mr Varadkar said.

He said that open recruitment and further staffing changes are also likely.

"The current staff of the unit is made up of six serving public and civil servants, assigned on secondment or through reallocation of internal resources within the Department of the Taoiseach.

"It is headed by a director, on secondment from a State agency, at assistant secretary level. The other five staff have been reassigned from within the department. Further staff will be recruited, including through the assignment of three media and communications assistants who were already in the process of recruitment to fill existing vacancies through an open competition run by the public appointments service.

"It is likely that further vacancies will be filled through advertisement for staff on secondment from within the public service," the statement adds.

Irish Independent

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