Sunday 21 July 2019

Tweet deal - Madigan uses €20,000 of taxpayers' cash on her social media image

Model employee: Ms Madigan at the launch of the Winter of Heritage this week. Photo: Peter Cavanagh
Model employee: Ms Madigan at the launch of the Winter of Heritage this week. Photo: Peter Cavanagh
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Culture Minister Josepha Madigan is hiring a social media expert to manage her online image at a cost of €20,000 to the taxpayer.

The job specification, seen by the Irish Independent, says the contract will only run "until the next General Election (spring/summer 2019)".

The renewal of the Confidence and Supply deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil before Christmas should ensure the Government's survival into 2020, although many in Leinster House still speculate on an election this year.

Asked why the job only runs until this summer, a spokesperson said despite the dates the minister is "working on the generally agreed assumption that this Government will run until at least the spring/summer of next year in light of the continuance of the Confidence S arrangement with Fianna Fáil".

The recruitment of a person specifically to manage a minister's social media channels is unusual, although all Cabinet ministers have at least one policy adviser and one press adviser, who tend to control their output on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms.

Ms Madigan says the role will be "flexible" and "part-time" but the successful applicant will be expected to produce "daily posts" based on her departmental and constituency work programme.

They must also attend up to two ministerial events each week "to live post and prepare video posts". And attendance at weekly team meetings in the Department of Culture will be required.

A spokesperson for Ms Madigan said the salary will be funded using an allowance available to all Dáil deputies.

Members have the option of spending up to €41,092 for the employment of two temporary employees.

The fund is managed by the Oireachtas rather than the Department of Public Expenditure, which sanctions the appointment of other ministerial advisers.

Ms Madigan's office has confirmed that she began employing a person under this scheme last year.

This person was paid a total of a total of €15,317 during 2018 as her employment began several months into the year.

This contract has now been ended. Ms Madigan has been a long-time critic of social media companies, previously stating that if left unregulated, they "could pose one of the biggest threats to western democracy".

She supports proposals to establish an electoral commission to deal with digital political campaigns financed from outside the State.

She has written legislation which, if adopted by the Government, would allow for social media companies to be hit with unlimited fines if they fail to remove posts which risk prejudicing criminal trials.

Both the Supreme Court and the Law Reform Commission have called for such laws.

Irish Independent

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