The Social Democrats have called on the Taoiseach to publish instructions given by officials to agencies which placed Ireland 2040 advertisements in local and regional newspapers which look like news coverage.

The party’s co-leader Catherine Murphy TD said:

“The Taoiseach needs to publish exactly what instructions were given by the Strategic Communications Unit to Mediaforce and any other company which handled the paid content in scores of local and regional newspapers in the past week.

“Mr Varadkar is insisting that there was no direction from his department officials to newspaper editors to blur the line between the news and a paid information campaign. However, The Times reports make it clear that the instructions to regional newspapers to make paid content look like normal editorial coverage came from a media placement company, which was in turn contracted by the Strategic Communications Unit.

“Fine Gael’s use of public funds for ‘good news’ reporting on the Ireland 2040 plan is disturbing and damaging for our democracy. This was a blatant effort at government propaganda which I believe breaches advertising standards and may also be a contravention of SIPO rules.

“Hard-pressed local and regional newspapers understandably rely on commercial advertising revenue. But they seem to have been put in an invidious position, with strict instructions to make paid coverage look like independent editorial. The use of government spending power in this way is highly dubious.”

ENDS

27 February 2018