Howlin calls on Taoiseach to reveal cost of new Strategic Communications Unit

Update 6.05pm: Labour leader Brendan Howlin hascalled on the Taoiseach to reveal the real cost of the expansion of communications staff in Government.

Responding to a question from Deputy Howlin on Leaders' Questions in the Dáil today, Leo Varadkar said he did not yet know the net cost of the new unit, despite previously promising that this unit would be ‘cost neutral’.

Deputy Howlin commented: “It's clear that the Taoiseach has not been up-front about the true cost of his new Strategic Communications Unit. We were originally told that this new unit- which represent a significant investment in Government communications- would be ‘cost neutral to the Exchequer’.

“However today the Taoiseach revealed that he does not yet know how much this new team will cost.

“This admission comes after we have seen jobs filled in the Strategic Communications Unit, and also in individual Government Departments, as well as a tender issued over recent weeks for monthly tracking polls that will cost the taxpayer €130,000 plus VAT.

“The taxpayer is entitled to know if it is paying for Government communications or party political research. If we are to believe that the Taoiseach is indeed prioritising substance over spin, then coming clean on the intended level of communications spending would be a good place to start.”

Earlier: The Taoiseach has committed to publish all research the government commissions through a new Strategic Communications Unit.

The opposition has been focusing on a tender for tracking polls for the new unit which will spend €130,000 per year.

The unit has been labelled a "vanity propoganda project" by Labour leader Brendan Howlin.

Leo Varadkar has told the Dail he has no issue with the data being made public.

"I'm not sure we're actually doing polls but certainly the Strategic Communications Unit is going to do some research. I have no difficulty at all in those being published," he said.

"This is something that the last Government, previous Governments have done in the past. It's not a major change," Mr Varadkar added.

He said the six staff in the new unit will come from other areas of the public service.

"I don't yet know what the net cost is going to be," he said.

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