- Set up by Leo Varadkar upon his election as Taoiseach last year, the Strategic Communications Unit (SCU) was allocated €5 million for its operations in Budget 2018 and it recently emerged that it has 15 staff.
- The Taoiseach argues that the SCU has been established to modernise Government communications, pointing out that there are currently about 700 communications staff across Government departments and agencies.
He pledged the SCU will streamline Government communications and deliver major cross-Government communication campaigns.
For example, the Government tasked the SCU with creating one online portal - gov.ie - taking in all Government departments, as is the case in other countries such as Canada.
- The SCU is headed up by John Concannon, the "marketing whizz" behind successful campaigns such as The Gathering, the Wild Atlantic Way and Creative Ireland.
- The Opposition has strongly criticised the SCU since it was established, labelling it a taxpayer-funded Government "spin unit".
It is now "mired in scandal" and perceived as an elaborate propaganda vehicle for the advancement of Fine Gael. It has also been cited as an example of a Government obsessed with spin over substance.
- This criticism reached new heights in recent weeks when it emerged that the unit placed advertorials in some newspapers about the new national development plan, Project Ireland 2040.
- After months of opposition and media criticism a review of the unit is under way. It was initiated after the furore over Ireland 2040.
Not to everyone’s satisfaction it is being carried out by Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach Martin Fraser and is due to be completed within a fortnight.
- Sinn Féin has tabled a Private Members’ Motion seeking the "immediate disbandment" of the SCU. The so-called 'spin unit' is also expected to face questions from the Oireachtas finance committee.