Since entering power in 2011, Fine Gael has spent almost €800,000 on photographers in what has been dubbed a “Republic of photo opportunities”, writes Political Correspondent Juno McEnroe.
New figures obtained by the Irish Examiner reveal amounts spent by individual departments.
These are separate from the €5m being spent out on the new government spin unit.
The highest spend came from the Department of Foreign Affairs, with €280,000 paid out to photographers in recent years. The Taoiseach’s department followed this by spending €120,000 on pictures.
The €780,000 spent on capturing moments on camera has been described as an exorbitant amount for taxpayers to foot, according to Fianna Fáil TD Shane Cassells.
“Fine Gael is clearly committed to building a Republic of Photo Opportunities for itself. It has overseen hundreds of thousands spent on Kodak moments since it came into power. Taxpayers are picking up the bill while Fine Gael ministers say cheers for the camera.”
The other big department spenders who were not camera shy included Agriculture (€54,679), Arts (€49,403), and even the Public Expenditure (€35,246), a department usually charged with cutting back costs across all of the Government and its agencies.
Mr Cassells questioned why the photo PR spend was so high at a time when the housing crisis was gripping the nation and such money could be best spent elsewhere.
“This is a Government clearly obsessed with spin over substance. The hundreds of thousands splashed out on photography to show ministers in a positive light further highlights this spin-driven policy.
“All of this money comes on top of the supposedly cost-free strategic communications unit that was then revealed to cost €5m.
“This comes a time when we have the worst housing crisis in the history of our country,” the Meath West TD said.
Some of the lowest department spenders since Fine Gael took control in government in 2011 included Defence (€2,680), Finance (€2,708) as well as Health (€11,633) — departments which regularly launch events.
Mr Cassells, who is also Fianna Fáil’s local government spokesman, now wants individual ministers heading departments to clarify why so much has been spent over the last few years on photographs and setpieces and to see if taxpayers are in fact getting value for money while ministers “boost their image”.
This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner.