Thursday 19 April 2018

Refugees from FF find work in Aras campaign

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

A NUMBER of former Fianna Fail spin doctors and key advisers from the Fianna Fail-Green coalition are picking up work with presidential candidates.

Independent candidate Sean Gallagher, a former member of Fianna Fail, has two former party workers on his team, with an ex-government adviser to former Justice minister Dermot Ahern due to come on board in the coming weeks.

He also has a former key adviser to John Gormley working for him.

Donal Geoghegan, who was general secretary of the Green Party, is already working full-time on the Gallagher campaign.

Mr Geoghegan was a programme manager in the last government, drawing a salary of around €170,000, and one of Mr Gormley's closest advisers.

He is a former general secretary of the National Youth Council and is understood to know Mr Gallagher through youth work.

Among other Gallagher staff are Suzanne Collins, a former press officer for Fianna Fail and the SDLP, and Cathal Lee, former public-affairs executive with the Construction Industry Federation.

Like Mr Gallagher, Mr Lee comes from Co Cavan and he was also a former chairman of Fianna Fail's Kevin Barry Cumann at UCD.

Mr Lee worked on Fianna Fail's political staff for three years and is a former board member of the National Youth Council.

Richard Moore, who worked as spin doctor for former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, is due to join the staff in the coming weeks.

Mr Moore also worked for Michael Lowry when the Tipperary TD was communications minister during the Rainbow Coalition in the 1990s.

A press adviser during the last government would have been paid around €90,000.

Mary Davis also has a former spin doctor for a FF minister working for her.

While Ms Davis has yet to fill key campaign positions, such as director of elections and tour organiser, her communications operation is being run by Suzanne Coogan, who worked with the candidate at Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia.

Ms Coogan also has strong Fianna Fail connections, having worked as a press officer for the party and later as ministerial adviser to Willie O'Dea. On national radio this week, Mr O'Dea praised Ms Davis as a "very good person to support".

Ms Coogan started working for Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia, where Ms Davis is managing director, after Mr O'Dea had resigned from the Cabinet in February 2010.

She said she took a leave of absence from her Special Olympics post when Ms Davis announced that she was running for president on May 25.

Yet another former government adviser is also the key man behind Fine Gael's Gay Mitchell. John Downing represented the Green Party in government and was deputy government press secretary during the Fianna Fail-Green coalition.


Mr Downing, a former journalist with this newspaper and 'The Star', is his press adviser and is being helped by staff from Fine Gael headquarters on Upper Mount Street, as well as those based in Leinster House.

Mr Mitchell's director of elections is Laois-Offaly TD Charlie Flanagan, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Labour's Michael D Higgins has his daughter, Alice May Higgins, helping out with his campaign, although she is not getting paid.

Currently, two members of the campaign are being paid: Mr Higgins' driver and his assistant Michael Treacy, his former parliamentary assistant.

Most of the staffing for Mr Higgins' campaign is coming from Labour headquarters, although a party spokeswoman said some "non-political" staff were on board.

His director of elections is Dublin Central TD Joe Costello, and around five hired staff will be working on the campaign.

Irish Independent

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