Labour criticises private briefing on Strategic Communications Unit

The Department of the Taoiseach says a private briefing on the Strategic Communications Unit afforded to Paddy Cosgrave was granted at the request of the Web Summit founder.

On Tuesday night Mr Cosgrave tweeted his support for the unit, and said he has been “taken through the Taoiseach’s Strategic Communications Unit overall plan”.

Mr Cosgrave further tweeted he had received “a private briefing [on] many of the ideas that are to be rolled out by the Taoiseach’s Comms unit”.

On Wednesday the Irish Examiner submitted questions to the Government press office arising from Mr Cosgrave’s comments.

We asked why Mr Cosgrave was given a private briefing on the work of the unit; when this briefing took place, and who briefed him; if this briefing was delivered solely to Mr Cosgrave or if there were others present; if Mr Cosgrave was paid for his time; and who else has received such a briefing.

Yesterday evening at 5pm the press office issued the following statement: “It is routine for government officials to meet with various stakeholders to discuss government policy. The director of the Strategic Communications Unit met Paddy Cosgrave at his request.

At this meeting, an outline of the Strategic Communications Unit work plan was provided. All information provided is in the public domain.”

Mr Cosgrave was subsequently contacted for comment but did not reply at time of publication.

However, despite the Government’s claim that all information provided in the briefing is in the public domain, Mr Cosgrave has tweeted that he has seen the ‘wider plan’ for the unit.

“Two weeks ago I saw what I believe is the wider plan, probably almost complete, for the #SCU,” he said.

“As for the wider plans of the #SCU not being shared with the public, my view is the following: If the plans are fully completed following lengthy consultation with stakeholders in Ireland & others around the world & are being kept secret that is a matter of public concern.

“Why did I get to see what I believe are the wider plans for the #SCU - feedback I presume,” he said.

The briefing was criticised by opposition TDs who claim they have been kept at arms’ length from the working of the unit.

“A private citizen gets behind-scenes briefing about the Strategic Communications Unit but not the members of the Oireachtas elected to hold the Government to account on their spending,” Labour leader Brendan Howlin said on Twitter.

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