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Fine Gael accused of 'buying the election' after government advert appears on front page of newspaper

The government has defended the ad.

FINE GAEL HAS been accused of using taxpayers’ money to “buy the election” after a front page ad heralding an increase in the minimum wage was published on the front of a Sunday newspaper. 

A large ad with the words “if you’re on minimum wage, you’re getting a raise” was printed on the Business Post this morning, much to the anger of the opposition parties. 

Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader Dara Calleary said the ad was effectively using taxpayers’ cash to buy votes. 

“Here we see Fine Gael returning to familiar territory and splashing the cash on expensive advertising to promote itself  - and using taxpayers’ hard earned cash to do so,” Calleary said. 

“This is exactly what the party did back in 2018 after the launch of Project Ireland when it rolled out a campaign of local newspaper and cinema advertising as well as paid-for editorials to promote Fine Gael reps,” he added.

The placing of this ad in the Business Post is a blatant attempt to target employers during a General Election campaign and I believe it is very questionable. All such advertising should be suspended until after polling day. 

“There are so many serious issues facing this country, they can’t be paper over with advertising space. Fianna Fáil wants to see spending on services, not spin,” Calleary said. 

Labour’s Ged Nash also hit out at what he described as an abuse of taxpayers’ money on “glorified ads”.

Senator Nash said:“We need to know how much public money they are wasting on their latest spin campaign.”

“I hiked the National Minimum Wage a matter of weeks before the 2016 election arising from the first recommendation of the Low Pay Commission .

“The difference between Labour and FG is we didn’t abuse tens of thousands of euros belonging to the taxpayer by taking out glossy ads in Sunday newspapers to tell everyone about it. 

“The Secretary General of the Department of Taoiseach must rein them in and instruct all Departments to cease all but essential advertising in the run up to the 8th February.”

Responding to the claims, the Department of Social Protection said plans were in place to publish these advertisements prior to the election being called. 

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A spokeswoman for the department told TheJournal.ie: “The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection would like to emphasise that this is a campaign designed to inform employees and employers of the changes to the minimum wage that come into effect on 1 February.  The campaign was formulated and agreed last December.

“This campaign is exactly the same format and design as the previous one run on the minimum wage increase in January 2019 and is part of the Department’s regular information output – in this case to highlight the increase in the National Minimum Wage to employers, business and to low paid workers themselves.”

In October 2019, the Government accepted the proposal to increase the minimum wage by 30 cent per hour and a decision was taken to postpone any increase until there was greater clarity regarding Brexit and the ability of business to absorb an increase.

The spokeswoman added: “The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection announced the increase on the National Minimum Wage on 19 December following a decision made by Government. 

“The Department planned an information campaign to inform employees and employers of the change and booked space and times with an advertising agency in December.  The campaign was always scheduled to begin on Thursday, 16 January, and to run for two weeks until Thursday, 30 January. It was decided that the campaign would include the same print and digital advertising as was used for a similar campaign in 2019.”

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