Taoiseach admits Strategic Communications Unit controls were 'too loose'

Leo Varadkar says the controversial 'spin unit' has become a distraction from the work of government

Taoiseach admits Strategic Communications Unit controls were 'too loose'

Leo Varadkar. Picture by: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

The Taoiseach has admitted controls were 'too loose' for the Government's Strategic Communications Unit.

However, he has accused the opposition of trying to distract from real issues by kicking up a storm over communication.

The two main opposition parties have called on the Government to scrap the so-called 'spin unit'.

It comes after controversy around instructions the SCU gave to newspapers about Government ads for the 'Project Ireland 2040' plan.

The Taoiseach has asked the secretary general of his department to review the SCU, including the possibility of disbanding it.

Today, Leo Varadkar challenged members of the opposition to prove the SCU had instructed newspapers to make ads look like real news.

In the Dáil earlier, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the SCU is "about political promotion, not the provision of hard information".

"What's over the top, Taoiseach, is the utilisation of taxpayers' money for a political spin machine orchestrated by your good self," the opposition leader added.

The Taoiseach responded: "We've just gone through the worst snow storm in 35 years, perhaps 70 years. As I speak there are still 23,000 households without water, and some parts of the country remain inaccessible by road. And the leader of the opposition's party is the Strategic Communications Unit."

Mr Varadkar added: "I do appreciate that the unit that I set up to better explain how government works and what government does has now become a distraction from the work of government.

"I do appreciate that mistakes were made, that controls were too loose, and that as a result of that problems arose. For that reason, the unit is under review."

The review of the unit is expected to be completed before Easter.

Reporting by Sean Defoe and Stephen McNeice