Another Fine Tess

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From top: yesterday’s Irish Mail on Sunday; Former justice minister Frances Fitzgerald (left); Terry Prone

Yesterday.

In the Irish Mail on Sunday and The Sunday Times.

Dublin Institute of Technology lecturer, journalist and FOI sleuth Ken Foxe reported on the cache of correspondence he received from the Department of Justice – between Terry Prone, of the Communications Clinic, and the former Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald and/or her officials, during her time as minister.

Mr Foxe sought the correspondence between Ms Prone, who signed off as ‘Tess’ in correspondence, and Ms Fitzgerald between May 8, 2014 and March 11, 2017.

During this period of time, Ms Prone was also advising the then Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan.

Mr Foxe had initially been told there were no such records.

After appealing the matter to the Office of the Information Commissioner, the OIC discovered there were 68 such records.

And then the Department of Justice informed Mr Foxe there were more than 190 such records.

In a thread last night, Mr Foxe tweeted…

‘Wag finger here’: how PR guru Terry Prone guided Frances Fitzgerald (Ken Foxe, Sunday Times)

Last Thursday, Ken Foxe was a special guest Broadsheet on the Telly and shared his knowledge of the Freedom of Information process in Ireland. Watch back here.

Previously: Francis, Nóirín and Tess

From 0 To 68 To 190-Plus

21 thoughts on “Another Fine Tess

  1. Tom

    I’m far from a Prone fan but what is the problem here? This is exactly the sort of exchanges I’d expect between a competent pr consultant and a minister.

      1. martin

        I imagine you might like it to be, wouldn’t ya? though others might not feel the same way

        you can bet your house there’ll be more in existence emails that we haven’t seen and never will – I for one would also wonder exactly how thorough the output from these searches ever are

        disgusting

        1. realPolithicks

          The usual government apologists with their “move along, nothing to see here” BS. If there is nothing of interest why did they make such a strong push to keep these emails out of the public eye?

          1. Joe Small

            I think you’re underestimating the uselessness of the Department of justice and Equality. Its quite funny when people see conspiracy theories in government when the reality is usually incompetence. I imagine for the original FOI the junior official tasked with it either didn’t look too hard or just didn’t know where to look. Every official hates FOI (who wants to waste time looking through old emails?) and wants to finish it as quickly as possible.

            The extracts above printed in the paper look like standard press advisor stuff.

  2. giggidygoo

    A FOI on Varadkars knoweledge (as Health Minister) or lack thereof as regards Cervical Check would be interesting.
    On the above, isn’t it amazing that Ministers have to rely on someone like Prone to run their department.?

    1. newsjustin

      “…. isn’t it amazing that Ministers have to rely on someone like Prone to run their department.?”

      But when the government established the Strategic Communications Unit, people weren’t having any of it either.

    2. Joe Small

      Prone isn’t running the department. That’s the Secretary-General’s job. Or at least it should be. Didn’t you learn anything from Yes Minister?!

  3. phil

    Does this mean that ministers do not trust the expertise within their own departments ?
    If that’s true I understand the need for temporary outside help until that issue is resolved, but how are they planning on solving in the problem ?

    1. Cian

      This is true in the private sector too. You spend huge amounts of money getting ‘consultants’ to tell you what you already know. But because they are outsiders management are more likely to trust them.

      Group-think is a real thing. Unless you get external input you can end up missing ‘obvious’ things. Sending these to a PR company gives things the “fresh set of eyes”.

      1. realPolithicks

        Ah Cian, always advancing the “benign” explanation for everything this government does. Next you’ll be telling us that they were doing it for the good of the citizens.

      2. phil

        I agree Cian, but the PR guru solution is dangerous also, I would suspect the PR individual was a safe pair of hands, she knows what the minister wants , and knows what upsets the minister, without it ever being discussed. I would argue that a snr civil servant would sometimes tell the minister something the minister would rather not hear , and that would be a good thing…

        1. Cian

          This is true. But the minister already has the civil service in her ear. She is already getting the ‘inside’ view. This gives her a second, external view of the world.
          I don’t know how the minister works. Did she write the draft for Prone to review? Or were the draft written by a civil servant?
          If the former- she should be using the cs. If the latter it makes more sense.

          1. phil

            This transparency stuff , I quite like it, I understand the ministers would fear it , but in my opinion, I think its helps them , sure they get a short term beating but I rather see a perceived weak minister reaching out for help than… well I had better say no more until I properly read the FOI in its context …

  4. johnny

    Cian-no outside consultants work in this manner, none.The tone, familiarity and language used are NOT reflective off a healthy, professional relationship,its co-dependency or relationship addiction, with the minister coming across as foolish ,ineffective and completely reliant on a “master” !

  5. SOQ

    I have known a number of Public Relations professionals; decent people but when they switched into professional mode they completely detached themselves from personal. It’s quite admirable actually because I certainly couldn’t do it. They reminded me of solicitors or barristers.

    I know one who was involved in a very controversial project which failed to “get the message across”. Right and wrong was of no consequence because she was employed to do a job, and it is mainly women, at least in my experience.

    State FOI is a joke. The legal requirement is wholly dependant on internal mechanisms and flowcharts are easily drawn yet rarely implemented. The FOI assessors should be fully separate with access to all material, but not as consultants because they are the most biased of all.

    1. Joe Small

      Where will the resources be found for that? Every official who does an FOI request – and there are thousands – has to be pulled away from his/her real job to do a search for documents, write up a register and respond formally. It can take hundreds of hours for large requests.

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