Independent Alliance ministers have reacted with anger at what they see as their deliberate exclusion from the controversial newspaper ‘advertorials’ by Fine Gael.
Transport Minister and de-facto head of the Alliance Shane Ross strongly criticised the Taoiseach’s €5m Strategic Communications Unit, which had responsibility for the advertorials.
Mr Ross said the unit has not made any difference to his job.
“I have just been in touch with SCU boss John Concannon to find out what happened over the past week,” he said. “I don’t see any particular shift in my fortunes, I don’t see any change one way or the other.”
On foot of the controversy over the advertorials, the way in which the Government advertisements — one of which appeared in the Irish Examiner — are displayed is to be reformed. Leo Varadkar is to order the SCU to ensure paid-for content is clearly identified as ‘advertorial’, ‘sponsored’, a ‘commercial feature’, or ‘special feature’.
Mr Ross said “bad mistakes” were made on the marketing campaign and added that it is “absolutely wrong” that the Government was able to pay for adverts that papers were told to run like normal editorial.
Leo Varadkar promised yesterday that rules will be strengthened so that the public will not be misled.
Anger was vented at a private meeting of Alliance ministers and their advisers.
“There is a fair bit of annoyance at the 2040 plan and we were not involved as we should have been,” said a source. “The so-called ads or spreads didn’t mention us. They had stuff in the Independent and the Examiner and didn’t mention the Alliance. The advisers, who normally don’t attend, were also spitting fire, saying they too have been treated very badly.”
Mr Ross and Alliance whip Seán Canney were also furious at a lack of notice of significant job announcements in their constituency.
An Alliance source said: “There was an announcement in Ross’ own constituency and he was not told about it. There was war over that, he was spitting fire.”
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