Wednesday 25 April 2018

Varadkar defends spending plan ads

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of Project Ireland 2040. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the launch of Project Ireland 2040. Photo: Kyran O'Brien
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has defended the promotion of the Project Ireland 2040 plan, insisting there was no instruction from Government officials to newspaper editors to "blur the line" between news and advertising.

The Government has faced Opposition criticism over the involvement of its Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) in promoting the €116bn infrastructure spending plan amid claims it represents the use of taxpayers' cash to benefit Fine Gael.

There have been calls for Mr Varadkar's officials to be hauled before the Public Accounts and Communications committees to face a grilling on the SCU's involvement.

A report in 'The Times Ireland Edition' newspaper said a media company running the advertising campaign - which also owns regional news titles - directed newspaper staff to make the sponsored content look like news.

Mr Varadkar said: "There was no direction from my department or any official in my department... to editors to blur the line between the news and an information campaign."

He said the only instruction was that they should indicate the article was "in partnership with the Government". He also said newspaper staff had full editorial control over interviews done with commentators in relation to Project Ireland 2040.

Mr Varadkar said: "It's right that the Government should want to explain to the public what we're doing and how their money is being spent".

He said that previous governments have also done this.

Irish Independent

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