Steve White writes:
On December 12 last, James Lawless Fianna Fáil TD initiated a bill related to online advertising and multiple accounts transparency
The Online Advertising and Social Media (Transparency) Bill 2017 stipulates that online political advertising shall not be paid for from monies provided out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof or from monies voted by the Oireachtas.
On December 12, 2017 Mr Lawless held a press conference with Niamh Smith TD in which he said,
“we haven’t yet seen any Independent ministers featuring in the adverts, which I think is interesting”
Meanwhile, during the a debate on the bill in the Dáil on December 13, , Fianna Fáil member Thomas Byrne said:
“Deputy Lawless’s Bill seeks to target bots, which I have dealt with in what I have already said, but also the strategic communications unit, which is an absolute disgrace. Let us be clear that the Minister, Deputy Naughten, is not getting a slice of the advertising pie because he is not in Fine Gael.
The broad shoulders of Fine Gael have elbowed into all these paid ads. The latest one, promoting Deputy Leo Varadkar and Deputy Paschal Donohoe in his own constituency, had 400,000 viewers and was paid for entirely by all the taxpayers of Ireland. This is wrong and should be illegal.
I have already put it to my party that we should introduce legislation to ban any Oireachtas Member from appearing in paid advertising by Government Departments unless it is required by law, such as in the case of a signature on an official order.
I refer primarily to Ministers because they are the only ones to have done this so far. It is utterly wrong and disgraceful that the €5 million from the strategic communications unit, SCU, is being turned into paid Facebook ads for Fine Gael and the Minister, Deputy Naughten, should be clear that they are only for Fine Gael Members.
While Dublin traffic was at a standstill on Monday morning because of the Luas works, a Facebook video promoting Deputies Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe and the Luas was on air for well over 24 hours.”
Why doesn’t Mr Bynre mention Independent TD and Minister for Transport Shane Ross who is also in the video?
Or that The Rugby World Cup bid ad, produced by the Strategic Communications Unit and can be viewed here, features Mr Ross prominently.
Thomas Byrne must have seen this ad as he asked a parliamentary Question about it on 28th November 2017.
I asked them both multiple times about this and they won’t reply.
If you were going to criticise the Strategic Communication Unit in the midst of an anti-fake news bill would you not want to do it on an accurate basis?