Irish Government Special Advisers
December 6, 2011

The primary function of special advisers will be to secure the achievement of Government objectives and to ensure effective co-ordination in the implementation of the programme for government. The role and duties of special advisers are described in section 11 of the Public Service Management Act 1997. In summary, these are (i) providing advice; (ii) monitoring, facilitating and securing the achievement of Government objectives that relate to the Department, as requested; and (iii) performing such other functions as may be directed.

Public Relations
plural noun
[also treated as singular]

the professional maintenance of a favourable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person:

OED Online

Special Advisers’ Statements of Interests

A special adviser is required under the Ethics Acts to prepare and furnish to the office holder who appointed him or her a statement of any registrable interests held by him or her which could materially influence him or her in the performance of his or her official functions by reason of the fact that such performance could so affect those interests as to confer on or withhold from him or her or his or her spouse or civil partner or child or child of a spouse a substantial benefit. The office holder is required under the Ethics Acts to lay any such statement before each House of the Oireachtas within 60 days of its receipt by him or her (a separate statement of any registrable interests of spouse or civil partner or child or child of a spouse is also required to be furnished, but is not laid before the Oireachtas). Unlike statements of registrable interests furnished by members of the Oireachtas, which are published by the Clerk of Dáil Éireann or of Seanad Éireann as appropriate in a register of members’ interests, special advisers’ statements are not published. However, under the Standing Orders for each House, all documents laid before each House shall be considered public. Accordingly, statements which have been furnished to the Standards Commission by special advisers may be viewed and copied by request to the Commission’s Secretariat. (SIPO Annual report 2010)

The Government has had  imposed a “salary cap” of €92,000.00 for these posts, which are not advertised.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny has appointed four to his “kitchen cabinet”. They will cost the taxpayer €440,000 a year.

Not including the new Government press secretary, former head of the Fine Gael press office Feargal Purcell and Cathy Madden who is there for Labour, formerly of  98FM and Newstalk. Salaries unavailable as yet but predecessor  Eoghan Ó Neachtain was paid  €138,655 last year.

Mark Kennelly a Veteran FGer (€168,000) first worked with Fine Gael during the Rainbow Coalition as a researcher at the European Parliament. He was then elevated to the position of special adviser to Michael Lowry in 1995. He played an “important role” in Programme for Government negotiations and operated as Mr Kenny’s election tour manager.

Andrew McDowell also breaking the salary cap at €168,000. An “economist in the Fine Gael tradition”. First cousin once removed to Michael McDowell and another ex-Forfas. Joined FG in 06 where he worked for Finance spokesman Bruton and later Noonan. Angela Flanagan and Paul O’Brien are both former party policy officers, each earn €80,051 .

An Taoiseach has also received training from Anton Savage. Savage would be familiar from his work on TV3’s The Apprentice: You’re Fired and his regular slots on Matt Cooper’s The Last Word on Today FM. He has recently taken over the Sunday morning slot on the same station after Sam Smyth’s departure. His work with Fine Gael comes under his  consultant hat with The Communications Clinic where he is also Managing Director.

The PR and training company  was set up by parents Terry Prone and Tom Savage after leaving Carr Communications.  Terry who has worked with several governments over the years (Haughey, Garret, Bertie, P Flynn) recently worked on Fine Gael’s Presidential campaign with Gay Mitchell and writes a weekly column in the Irish Examiner while Tom Savage is chairman of the RTÉ board.

Also helping Fine Gael during the general election was Mark Mortell, presenter of  the Down to Business show on Newstalk and former PR for Sean Dunne. He had what was described as a “floating role” in deciding strategy and returned his job as Director at Fleishman-Hillard PR after the election. Mortell is a former Fine Gael councillor and his relationship with Enda goes back 30 years. As Tourism Minister Enda appointed Mortell as chairman of Bord Failte where he worked with current FAS director general Paul O’Toole.  There were some eyebrows raised in February when Fleishman-Hillard was granted a consultancy contract with FAS estimated to be worth €300,000

Tom Fabozzi is Fine Gael’s “Director of Media & Research”. He came from TV3 where he was producer of Tonight with Vincent Browne and Ursula Halligan’s old show The Political Party. He holds a masters in Political Communication and will be “responsible for developing and implementing the Party’s communication strategy”. Hopefully 2012 will see better then  dodgy youtubes and woeful Irish Times columns.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore’s chief handler is Mark Garrett who the Phoenix describes as one of the “Blairite modernisers” in the party and is another one over the cap on €168,000 . He was formally PR at the Competition Authority and worlds largest consultancy firm,McKinsey’s  in New York. They have a colourful history to say the least including many of their alumni heading Enron.  Connolly would be a big fan no doubt.

Colm O’Reardon again over on €155,000 is policy director for the party and has worked for the ESRI so we have big hopes. Colm is brother to Labour deputy Aodhán Ó Ríordáin. Jean O’Mahony a policy analyst is in the €80,051–€98,424 range.

Finbarr O’Malley is legal advisor on €83,337 and also linked to Rabbitte’s department .

Simon Coveney had drafted in Fergal Leamy. Apparently his patriotism  was one of the reasons put forward for another breach of the cap at €130,000. He left after five months for a job “too good to turn down” (Hedgefund) in England.  Leamy came from food group Greencore where Patrick Coveney is CAO, brother of the Minister for food, agriculture and the marine.

His has been replaced by Ross MacMathuna who was a marketing man at Alltech and another ex McKinsey.

Here two, Áine Kilroy,  a former researcher for Fergus O’Dowd netting €80,05 while former Parliamentary Assistant Caitríona Fitzpatrick has been appointed as press adviser but is not a special adviser

Seán Mac Cárthaigh (€83,337), was Dublin correspondent of The Irish News before moving to Paris for The Times (London). More recently he was Assistant Editor of The Sunday Business Post. Sean is now advisor to Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan having previously been director of public affairs with the Arts Council. Also there is retired Kerry school teacher Jim Kenny – his salary is “in line with the guidelines set down by Government on staffing ministerial offices”.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Frances Fitzgerald has hired Marion Mannion on €80,051.  Fellow Lucan native Cllr William Lavelle and former legal adviser to Enda Jennifer Carroll MacNeill split the same between them.

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte has hired former chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents’ Association Simon Nugent for again over at €97,200

Helping Ruairí Quinn are John Walshe and Deirdre Grant. Walsh (€92,672) was Education correspondent and Editor at the Irish Independent for over 18 years while Deirdre Grant (€86,604) is a former TV3 programmer and wife of Karl Brophy, Independent News & Media’s Director of Corporate Affairs.

Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government Phil Hogan has hired Claire Langton at €80,051 and Sean McKeown at €92,672 who was Chief Executive Officer of the Kilkenny County Enterprise Board. Mary Kenny has worked with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan since forever and gets €83,337 for her troubles.

Noonan had a new press advisor appointed 14/11/11 replacing Eoin Dorgan who is gone into the DOF.  No details as yet.

In health Mark Costigan who was a Deputy Government Press Secretary and a former spokesman for Mary Harney has been retained by Dr James Reilly at  €92,672. Previously he was a journalist, including Political Editor for Today FM .

Also here, Sean Faughnan who has been a Fine Gael policy adviser for the last few years and in the €80,051–€92,672 range. He drafted Fine Gael’s “Faircare” plan and picks up the always one award as a former investment banker with JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

On Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton’s team is Ciarán Conlon who hit the headlines on budget day. As the government prepared to take over a billion in cuts to welfare and services it emerged Enda Kenny had overruled his two finance ministers to again break the cap and pay Conlon a tidy €127,000.

More heroic efforts over at  give us an insight into the exchanges leading up to an Taoiseach’s rejection of Howlin’s compromise.

Speaking on Tonight with Vincent Browne on the second night of the budget Brian Hayes said Conlon came from the private sector, thus warranting a comparative salary. In written answers from October Howlin lists the advisers and takes extra care to point out how wonderfully qualified each of them are. However for Conlon all we get is two lines.

Mr. Conlon’s qualifications:BA (Economics) NUI Maynooth, MA (Economics) UCD

Conlon began his career at UCD and later Dublin Chamber of Commerce. He worked with MRPA Kinman Communications (Now branded as MKC Communications.) Home to plenty of familiar faces over the years and PR consultants to several departments and quangos.

What is also missing is his time as   Fine Gael communications director and more recently director of election planning and strategy.

So we must wait and see where exactly in private sector he came from?

Despite Conlon’s considerable and indeed valuable PR experience Conor Quinn is here as press adviser  on €80,051. Quinn was previously employed by Mr Bruton on his parliamentary staff as a part-time policy adviser and served as parliamentary assistant to Simon Coveney.

Brendan Howlin had concerns that if Enda allowed Conlon to break the cap, other Ministers would look for the same. In what looks like a effort to prove himself right, the public expenditure Minister lobbied to pay his adviser Ronan O’Brien €133,600. In the end O’Brien who worked Ruairi Quinn while leader of the party had to settle for a paltry €114,000. Over 20k over the cap. Also here Anne Byrne who was Member of the Medical Council 1984-1993 and Programme Manager in Health and Environment under previous administrations. She was also an adviser to Leas Cheann Comhairle 2007-2011 and picks up €83,337.

Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has taken on academic  Thomas Cooney and Jane Lehane who has been his parliamentary assistant since 2007. Both in the €80,051–€98,424 range.

Liam Cahill is former head of hunting lobby group, RISE and former head of PR for AIB and Intel. He was programme manager to Fianna Fáil minister David Andrews in the Reynolds government. Worked for Pat Rabbitte while Labour were in opposition. Now PR adviser to Fine Gael Minister Shane McEntee.

A full house!

Kathleen Barrington is one of Ireland’s best journalists, full stop. Her work in the SBP over the last few years has earned her hero status among some of us. The articles (which can be found linked on were vital in piecing together the murky events that brought us here. This Summer she was appointed special advisor to Joan Burton in social protection. While everyone wishes her well it was somewhat disappointing news to say the least.

There is a poignant moment in the clip of Enda launching of all things the “new” IFSC strategy.  As the Taoiseach waffles about the bankers lofty plan and a “responsible on-shore tax jurisdiction”. Kathleen is spotted coming out the door of government buildings behind.

However, Joan’s alignment with Barrington lends some credence to the theory that she was overlooked for a finance post because of certain official’s discomfort with Joan asking the “wrong” questions while in opposition. Let’s hope Joan and Kathleen are playing the long game. Naivety could be getting the better of me there but with so little to hang on to we take what we can get.

Joining her in social protection is solicitor Ed Brophy. He worked in Endesa Ireland as the Legal and Procurement Director. Previously he was a Senior Associate in Arthur Cox Solicitors. Again over the cap at €127,796 

Despite originally telling us his pay would be “in accordance with rates approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform” Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar secured another break in the cap for Brian Murphy who is set to receive €105,837.

Defending Enda on the Ciarán Conlon issue Minister Varadkar said that higher salaries had to be given in order to attract a high calibre of people, which was the very thinking behind Jobsbridge no doubt.. Mr. Murphy was Director of Commercial Affairs with the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association so may be staying with Leo if he ever makes it to health.

More interestingly Murphy is chair of the Fine Gael National Executive and a former adviser to Gay Mitchell so hardly needed much coaxing despite the Minister’s claims.

Nick Miller here two and paid ahem, “in accordance with rates approved by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform”.

Chief Whip Paul Kehoe for some reason needs an advisor and hired Mark O’Doherty. Salary not available

Róisín Shortall who being a junior minister had not been expected to appoint advisers managed to secure one of those exemptions that almost everyone else who asked got and hired Irish Times journalist Maev-Ann Wren part time.

Not to be out done “exceptional circumstances” also allowed Junior Minister Creighton to take on former children’s television presenter  Stephen O’Shea. Never say she is not committed to job creation. O’Shea has worked for Fine Gael and Lucinda in the past but more impotently, knows Zig and Zag. Let’s hope the Minister of State for European Affairs isn’t planning on sending Dustin back out.

The Super in Super Junior entitled Willie Penrose to two advisers. Back on the dole queue (unless  retained by Willie’s replacement or can get his Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council seat back) is unsuccessful Labour general election candidate Aidan Culhane, who was TD Alex White’s running mate.

FG kindly provided a list of the FF/GP advisers last year and it is still available here.

On there you can find details of Brian Cowen’s six (that’s six) advisers and the rest of Fianna Fáil’s extensive staff including senator Avril “council estate” Power. Who was earning almost 95k a year working for Mary Hanafin.

The Government, on the recommendation of the Taoiseach, has appointed Mr. Martin Fraser, Assistant Secretary, Department of the Taoiseach, to be Secretary General to the Government and Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach, with effect from 1st August 2011. Mr Fraser has been an Assistant Secretary in the Department since 2007, having previously been Director of the Northern Ireland Division. He replaces Dermot McCarthy, who retired in September. Dermot was appointed Secretary General to the Government in January 2000 and Secretary General of the Department in July 2001. He features here because he sat at the cabinet table and surely wasn’t short of advice. I had flagged his departure during the summer on the forum and the original figures released (drumroll) €114,000 a year and an immediate lump sum of €342,000. Much to my surprise when the hullabaloo kicked off in September the numbers had taken quite a jump. Compensation for the prospect of a post in Rome disappearing we’ll never know?

FIVE (Oireachtas Retort)


Authors notes:


Next time a Minister compares Social Welfare in the North to ours you can gently remind them that in Britain, the highest paid adviser earned €164,000 last year. Kenny and Gilmore are paying three of their personal handlers €168,000 each

As I wrote this it was hard not to notice there isn’t a single woman over the cap and most appear to be in the “basic” 80k range including those who have been with TDs for some time unlike these talented blow ins from the private sector. While I am of the firm belief that almost everyone featured is paid too much (especially as spin is order of the day ) it seems even the gravy train has catching up to do .

While this Government is spending less then the last shower. Wasting less money the Fianna Fáil is hardly much of an achievement. Based on these incomplete figures breaking the cap cost the government savings of €527633. More if you include advisers to junior ministers and the chief whip and into millions over the lifetime of the government. I know a bondholder wouldn’t wipe their nose with it but that money would go a long way towards SNAs, bags of turf and medication that makes life just manageable.

Instead the coalition offers a bailout to the world of PR for people who apparently refused to work for ninety two thousand euro per year. The cost of breaking that cap, and allowing additional staff to Junior Ministers runs to well over five million euro over the lifetime of this government.

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