A TOTAL of €20 million will be spent on an army of Government spin doctors and press aides this year, with almost €4 million paid out in expenses claims alone.
New figures show that despite last Wednesday’s painful budget – which saw welfare payments for new 20 to 21-year-old applicants cut in half, the carers’ allowance slashed and disability support curtailed – ministers are still spending a small fortune on PR advice.
Since the start of the year, official documents confirm that 310 advisers, press officers and constituency workers for Ireland’s senior and junior Government ministers have received a massive €16.5m in salaries.
Similar to 2008, a further €3.5m is also expected to be provided in expenses by the end of this month – contrasting starkly with the severe cuts imposed on a series of vulnerable groups last week.
“When Government is making a budget it is making choices, and they are choosing to spend so much money on spin doctors and media manipulators while reducing the money available to those who need it most,” Dr Seán Healy, director of Social Justice Ireland, warned. “They have made choices to support themselves and to support broken banks rather than broken people.
“They put billions into the banks and continue to, even though many of them were involved in dubious practices. At the same time a quarter of a million people were made unemployed in two years.
“There is a need at times for professionals to communicate the Government’s message, but that message should tell the truth. I believe the spin doctors receiving this money have not been telling the truth, and instead are just trying to support a message of a budget that is breathtakingly unjust,” he added.
According to the official documents, Taoiseach Brian Cowen currently has 19 departmental and constituency workers at a cost of €1.03m between January and November.
Tánaiste Mary Coughlan has 18, costing €1.06m, while Health Minister Mary Harney spent almost €750,000 on 12 advisers in the same period.
Most senior ministers still have more than a dozen taxpayer-funded civil servants and advisers, while junior ministers have between nine and 13.
The figures emerged 48 hours after the Government forced the social welfare bill through the Dáil by 81 votes to 75. Four TDs failed to attend the vote, including former Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, who resigned after pressure over his expenses, and former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
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