Updated: 28/03/18 : 06:23:16
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Sligo man's 'spin department' to be scrapped by July

The government's controversial Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) is to be "wound down" by July. 

The decision to scrap the 'spin' unit, run by Sligo man and PR guru John Concannon, comes following a review that concluded that continuous controversy surrounding it, in addition to a Dáil resolution for its disbandment, sealed its fate.

Senior civil servant Martin Fraser, secretary general  at the Department of the Taoiseach, conducted the damning review which was discussed by the Cabinet before the outcome being announced yesterday by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

One of the most vocal critics of the unit since its inception has been Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc Mac Sharry.

Deputy Mac Sharry told Sligo Today, "I welcome the abolition of the Strategic Communications Unit. I have been critical of its establishment from the beginning and while it's stated intention of stream lining Government communications and amalgamating state websites was honorable.

"In practice it was using tax payers money to create a false and dishonest complexion of party political ownership of the people's entitlements.  As I have said before that is wrong on every level. “

“Described by his owns staff as a "Vanity Project" before its establishment 'Leo the Vein' was forced by myself and others to take the only appropriate course of action by abolishing it.  

"I will be guided by the people. They must be respected with the provision of the truth in an honest manner and not misled for party political or personal gain"

The 15 staff from the unit with a €5m budget are to be redeployed elsewhere.

The opposition has claimed that the SCU, set up by Mr Varadkar last year to modernise government communications, has become a 'spin unit' for the government.

There was criticism of how the unit promoted the government's Project Ireland 2040 plans, launched last month in Sligo, amid claims that paid-for coverage promoted Fine Gael candidates.

While confirming that the review found no evidence of a breach of the Civil Service Code by civil servants in the SCU, whether by seeking favourable coverage for Fine Gael candidates or otherwise, the Taoiseach's Department said in a statement: "Having taken a wide range of issues into consideration, as set out in the review report, the Secretary General has recommended that the Strategic Communications Unit should be wound down.

"And that the Department of the Taoiseach should revert to a reformed Government Information Service, with a smaller budget, less staff and a more limited role than the SCU.

"The review also recommended a number of steps to be taken across Government Departments to preserve valuable and necessary reforms to ensure value for money, professionalisation and modernisation in government communications activity.

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