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'Cute as foxes': TD asks why the housing department is retweeting tweets with the Fine Gael logo

Meath TD Shane Cassells said there are serious ethical issues with the department retweeting Fine Gael messages.

THE SECRETARY GENERAL of the Department of Housing was quizzed today by a Fianna Fáil TD about why the department was retweeting tweets which display the Fine Gael party logo.

Meath West TD Shane Cassells said that last week, the housing department retweeted Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy’s tweet about the Rebuilding Ireland 2018 figures. 

The tweet, sent last Wednesday, displayed an image stating that 2,993 social houses were delivered last year. 

The target for delivery was actually missed by 4% last year. There has been much debate about the figures today at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee, with some TDs criticising the low-level of local authority new-builds in 2018. 

A Fine Gael logo is clearly visible on the bottom right-hand corner of the image.

tweet 2

Cassells said he was very concerned about the “buying of news” with such images, stating that similar concerns were raised last year with the Taoiseach’s Strategic Communications Unit, which was forced to disband. 

He asked the Secretary General John McCarthy if there was a department policy about tweeting party political messages, stating that the housing department is part of the civil service and should not be affiliating itself with such messages and logos.  

McCarthy said that it would be common across most departments to retweet the line minister as they carry out their ministerial duties.

He pointed out that Minister Murphy does not hold two Twitter accounts – one for his party work and one for his departmental work. When there appeared to be some laughter about the issue, Cassells intervened, stating: 

“This is not funny.”

tweet 2 Secretary General of the Housing Department, John McCarthy.

The secretary general said he was “not trivialising it”, adding that there are strict social media guidelines in place about such matters. 

Cassells said he had a “real problem” with departments tweeting Fine Gael messages, adding that “marketing and media matters”. 

He said Fine Gael is trying to “penetrate a message with an image” adding that they are “cute as foxes” and trying to get a certain message out there. 

He said the department retweeting such a message brings up “major ethical issues”. 

The secretary general committed to look into the matter. 

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