Advisers and backroom staff roll up the sleeves to help boss

The corridors of Leinster House have been very quiet since Taoiseach Enda Kenny made his way to the Áras on Wednesday morning.
Advisers and backroom staff roll up the sleeves to help boss

But it’s not only the politicians who have cleared out, many of their appointed advisers and backroom staff have taken leave to decamp to party headquarters or to help ministers on the campaign trail, leaving permanent civil servants behind.

When questioned about this, the majority of government departments refused to provide details and instead sent an identical response referring to a circular which “sets out the position regarding civil servants and political activity”.

Government press secretary Feargal Purcell said he will be remaining in his government role but would not give details on other staff who are on leave.

However, Alex White’s two advisers confirmed through the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources that they are on leave.

As did the Department of Children: “Ms Camille Loftus, special adviser and Mr Colm Fahey, personal assistant, have both advised the department that they will be taking leave for the duration of the election campaign”.

The Labour Party confirmed almost all advisers are now on the campaign trail.

But Fine Gael said it would not be commenting on the matter and a number of advisers would not comment and instead referred to the department response.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys’ adviser Sarah Meade, for example, has joined the Fine Gael party media team while Conor Quinn, Richard Burton’s adviser, was tasked with cutting off questions from the press at the first of Mr Kenny’s election briefings at Fine Gael headquarters on Wednesday.

Deputy government press secretary Paul O’Brien has moved to Labour’s headquarters along with Paul Deane, who has taken leave from the Department of Social Protection.

A statement received from 14 departments said ‘Circular 09/2009’ “sets out the position regarding civil servants and political activity”.

The response stated: “Specifically, paragraphs 17 and 18 of that circular set out the position of special advisers and the personal appointees of ministers, ministers of state, etc. Such appointees are free to work in campaign offices during election periods subject to certain arrangements, one of which is that they must take annual leave to cover periods when they are involved in campaign work. Applications for annual leave in such cases are dealt with in the normal way by each individual department.”

It was recently revealed that 36 advisers, across almost all the government departments, earn a combined yearly salary of over €3m.

The Taoiseach employs a chief of staff, three advisers, three press officers, five personal assistants, and two personal secretaries.

Tánaiste Joan Burton employs one chief of staff, three advisers, and a press officer, personal assistant, personal secretary and a correspondence co-ordinator.

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