Leo Varadkar’s much criticised communications unit seeks four recruits

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s much criticised Strategic Communications Unit has advertised for four recruits to be seconded from the civil service, write Daniel McConnell and Elaine Loughlin.

An internal email, seen by the Irish Examiner, shows that the unit is looking for a principal officer (salary up to €102,212); an assistant principal officer up to €81,924); a higher executive officer (€56,415) and an administrative officer (€58,251).

Mr Varadkar yesterday accused the opposition of “extraordinary paranoia” over his €5m unit after he confirmed there are 20 politically-appointed staff in his department.

In the Dáil, he detailed the names and ranks of the 20 appointees, nine of which are special advisors, who according to his comments, cost the taxpayer up to €1.95m a year at the top end of their scales.

Not all of those named have reached the top end of their increment scale.

Responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald, Mr Varadkar detailed all the people he has appointed since taking office.

“There are 20 politically-appointed staff employed by my department. Nine of these are advisers, including two special advisers to the Government chief whip,” he said.

“Those based in my department in Government Buildings are: Brian Murphy, chief of staff, paid at deputy secretary grade [€157,433] ; John Carroll, head of policy and programme implementation, paid at assistant secretary grade [€122,313 to €139,728].”

He added: “Nick Miller, spokesman and communications adviser to the Taoiseach is paid at assistant secretary grade; Patrick Geoghegan, special adviser, is paid at assistant secretary grade; Angela Flanagan, special adviser, paid at principal officer grade [€77,849 -to €102,212]; Philip O’Callaghan, special adviser, paid at principal officer grade.”

Feargal Purcell, Government press secretary, is paid at assistant secretary grade, Mr Varadkar said, but it is understood he is to leave his role in the coming weeks, having served as Enda Kenny’s press secretary since 2011.

Ex-Fine Gael senator Jim D’Arcy has been appointed Mr Varadkar’s Brexit special adviser and is paid at assistant principal grade [€62,966 to €81,924] while Lisa Tavey, a personal assistant, is paid at higher executive officer grade [€44,816 to €56,415].

Mr Varadkar also revealed a number of other political appointees. “Catherine Halloran, deputy Government press secretary, is paid at principal officer grade — she is principally press officer for the independent ministers,” he said.

“Sarah Meade, assistant Government press secretary, [is] paid at principal officer grade; Tony Williams, chief strategist for the Independent Alliance, paid at principal officer grade; Dónall Geoghegan, political co-ordinator for the Independent Ministers, paid at principal officer grade,” he added.

This story originally appeared in the Irish Examiner

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