Former senator Jim D’Arcy was formally given the new role yesterday just hours after Labour leader Brendan Howlin criticised Mr Varadkar over the scale of his backroom team.
In a statement last night, a spokesperson for Mr Varadkar confirmed Mr D’Arcy will work as an adviser for the Taoiseach on Northern Ireland, border issues, and Brexit — areas which are also under the remit of Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney.
Mr D’Arcy will also work with the British-Irish section officials, with a statement saying he has “unparalleled” experience in the sector due to his previous role with the Council of Europe, his contacts in the North and the fact he is from Dundalk.
The former senator — who was appointed by Enda Kenny to the upper house in 2011 before leaving last year — was previously on Louth County Council, and unsuccessfully contested the 2007 general election in Louth.
He will take up the new role at a assistant principal officer (higher) salary scale, which means he will earn between €65,093 and €78,451.
While the appointed was described as vital by the Government last night due to his “unprecedented” experience on border matters, it is likely to lead to yet more scrutiny over Mr Varadkar’s PR and backroom adviser spending.
In addition to the controversial strategic communications unit, Mr Varadkar also has a large government PR team and a number of advisors on various matters.
While the appointments are deemed necessary due to the seriousness of the issues being discussed, they have been criticised amid claims the Government is not focussing on key issues for the public.
In a statement last night, Labour leader Brendan Howlin called on Mr Varadkar “to come clean” on the “real cost” of the expansion of his backroom teams, saying there is growing concerns the Taoiseach is prioritising spin over substance.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Mr Varadkar has confirmed cabinet is likely to hold a rare special meeting on Friday week in Cork.
The meeting will take place at the same time as Fianna Fáil launches its annual ard fheis at the RDS in Dublin, and has been seen as a deliberate attempt to take the focus away from the opposition party.
A spokesperson for Mr Varadkar declined to say where the Cork meeting will be held as planning has not been finalised, and would not comment on speculation the meeting may occur in Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin’s Cork South Central constituency.
Cabinet also signed off on plans yesterday for the number of TDs to be increased or decreased after the next two general elections to take account of potential population changes.
Under existing laws, there must be one TD for every 30,000 people in an area, resulting in a number of controversial boundary changes which are due to come into effect at the next election. In an amendment to the electoral act agreed by cabinet yesterday, after the next two elections further changes may take place, though the number of TDs will stay between 166 and 172.