‘Alarming’ that Strategic Communications Unit is now drafting Parliamentary Question responses – Quinlivan
Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan today said that the revelation that the Strategic Communications Unit is now drafting Parliamentary Question responses is alarming, highly inappropriate, and shows Fine Gael’s penchant for spin is putting in jeopardy the neutrality of the civil service.
Speaking today on a Sinn Féin motion aimed at abolishing the SCU, Deputy Quinlivan said;
“Emails obtained by Juno McEnroe in the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act shows that the Strategic Communications Unit was asked to draft a response to a Parliamentary Question I submitted in October 2017.
“My Parliamentary Question asked ‘the way in which the new Strategic Communications Unit will be used by the Office of the Tánaiste or her Department; and if staff from the Office of the Tánaiste or her Department will be moved to it’.
“The Department forwarded my question to the Strategic Communications Unit for an answer.
“The SCU campaign manager came back with a full drafted answer for the Minister’s own staff, telling the Department’s Head of Communications they would be: ‘Grateful if you could use this version’.
“The email from the SCU and the PQ answer I received are practically identical.
“The SCU were essentially justifying their own existence, but doing so by cunningly using the Parliamentary Question system to hide behind.
“When I submit a PQ, I am holding the Minister to account, and seeking information on a topic from the Minister and their Department, not the spin unit.
“If I want something devoid of substance and dominated by spin, I’ll read a government press release instead.
“It is alarming to think that the SCU has now a role in the answering of Parliamentary Questions, and in my opinion, this is clear evidence that Fine Gael’s penchant for spin is putting in jeopardy the neutrality of the civil service.
“The Taoiseach recently said that the SCU is operating at an arm’s length of the government, these emails proves that was false, and an explanation is required.”
In concluding, Teachta Quinlivan posed two questions to the Tánaiste;
“Does the SCU have any involvement in the answering of other PQs in any other government department. Do Parliamentary Question responses now have to be vetted by the SCU to ensure they are in line with Fine Gael propaganda?”