The Social Democrats have accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of crossing a line by appointing the country’s top civil servant to carry out a review of the discredited Strategic Communications Unit which used public funds on covert advertising for the Ireland 2040 plan.

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

“Leo Varadkar has clearly crossed a line in appointing Martin Fraser, the secretary-general of the Taoiseach’s own department, to head up a review into the Strategic Communications Unit.

“The Taoiseach himself set up this spin unit in his department and has overseen its spend of €1.5 million in public money on a press campaign which amounted to Fine Gael propaganda dressed up as independent news coverage.

“It is totally inappropriate for the Taoiseach to now drag in the head of the civil service to what is an entirely political debacle of his own making. This is a new low for the Taoiseach, who is trampling over an important principle that the civil service should operate independently of government.

“The recent actions of the Strategic Communications Unit amount to a blatant abuse of public funds for partisan political spin. The politicisation of the work of this unit means it is now thoroughly discredited and the right thing to do is to disband it.  Earlier this week, the Social Democrats made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland about Ireland 2040 advertorials which ran in newspapers up and down the country without being clearly marked as advertisements.”

ENDS

3 March 2018