The communications team described as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s personal “spin unit” could be no more after the government lost a vote calling for it to be abolished.
The motion had the support of 85 TDs, including from Fianna Fáil, and Sinn Féin said the public accounts committee requesting its abolition of the strategic communications unit (SCU).
Mr Varadkar has indicated that he is unlikely to disband the unit, instead preferring to wait for the outcome of review if the SCU being carried out by secretary- general Martin Fraser. But that response drew criticism from John Brady, the Sinn Féin TD. “Earlier this week, the taoiseach outrageously said that he and his government would disregard the will of the Dáil when it comes to his spin unit,” said Mr Brady.
“Not only is this a worryingly authoritarian attitude to adopt, it demonstrates that propaganda is more important to the taoiseach than good governance.
“Practically the entire opposition has said ‘enough’ to the strategic communications unit and voted today for its disbandment.”
The SCU has come under scrutiny lately after commissioning an advertising campaign for 2024 which involved instructing regional media newspapers not to mark the content as editorial rather than advertorials. Mr Varadkar responded by issuing new guidelines which included a requirement that any government advertorials must be clearly marked.
The government was also accused of using the Ireland 2040 advertising campaign to promote Fine Gael candidates. The Times also claimed that radio producers had been told that a media partnership was planned with the government.
One local radio producer said they were told that it would involve putting a “positive spin” on the Ireland 2040 plan. But Mr Varadkar likened the claims being made against the SCU to “conspiracy theories”.
“There have been so many of them. I am waiting for people to allege that I was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK on the basis I visited Dealey Plaza in Dallas last week. Conspiracy theories are beneath people and disrespect the house,” he said.