Department newsletter comes under fire

Claims that the Department of Agriculture’s newsletters are party political were hotly denied in the Dail this morning.

Fianna Fail spokesman on Agriculture,Éamon Ó Cuív, claimed the newsletters featured “excessive amounts of images of the two ministers in the department”.

“Are these newsletters political propaganda or informing the public?,” he asked. “I have a very simple, specific question. Two newsletters were put out in October. How many pictures of the Minister and the Minister of State appeared in the newsletters?”

In response Minister of State Tom Hayes quipped: “It must be upsetting the deputy.”

However Ó Cuív wasn’t amused and demanded an answer, to which Hayes replied: “We will go back and count them for the deputy?”

But there was no need as Ó Cuív had the answer all along. “There were 11 pictures in the two newsletters, seven of which featured the Minister and four of which featured the Minister of State. That means 11 out of 11 featured one of the two ministers. It would appear that the minister’s opinion is that nothing happens in the department of interest that does not have the ministers in it,” he exclaimed.

He questioned whether the Standards in Public Office Commission was consulted about the “appropriateness” of the newsletter in its present form.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney spoke on the matter.

“I trust the corporate affairs division in my department to put together a newsletter that is non-party political but unapologetically advocates for our sector and informs people of what we are doing.

“I am involved in practically everything the department does that is new and is newsworthy. Of course I am because I am the head of the department. I do not see why I should shy away from that or be apologetic for it.”

The next newsletter is set to be published before Christmas.