Thursday 18 January 2018

UNICEF pay €2,000 a day for PR firm to handle crisis

Ken Sweeney and Sam Smyth

UNICEF Ireland has hired a leading public relations company to deal with the fallout arising from their decision to sack the partner of the late broadcaster Gerry Ryan.

Despite employing their own in-house communications manager, the charity has hired PR company Slattery Communications to deal with all media enquiries relating to the termination of Melanie Verwoerd's contract as executive director.

One PR source told the Irish Independent last night UNICEF could pay between €1,000 and €2,000 a day for "crisis communications" after news emerged that the 43-year-old's contract with UNICEF had been terminated over her public association with the late Gerry Ryan.

The former South African Ambassador to Ireland became Mr Ryan's partner after she divorced and he parted from his wife.

"Crisis communications is really what we are talking about here. UNICEF have been engulfed in a tsunami of media coverage. The extent of which is shown by their decision to bring in a third party to give their side of the story," a well known Dublin-based public relations executive said.

However, their response to repeated queries about the reason for Ms Verwoerd's sacking has so far amounted to little more than one sentence from UNICEF.

"UNICEF Ireland does not comment on the details of an employee's contract," the spokesman has responded to all enquiries.

UNICEF also declined to comment on whether actor Liam Neeson's planned fact-finding trip to Mozambique will go ahead this Sunday, which had been organised by Ms Verwoerd.


The charity's office in the Eastern African country last night said they "did not have any information" on the actor's visit.

The ongoing controversy over the dismissal of its executive director has raised fears that the fallout from the revelations will lead to a fall off in donations to UNICEF Ireland.

Other charity bosses have said controversy almost always leads to a loss of confidence and a consequent fall in donations in any charity touched by it.

"Donations always drop in any charity that finds itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons," a senior executive in another charity, who asked not to be identified, said. "It is a fact of life in the business we're in."

Irish Independent

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