Correspondence between government adviser John Concannon and the Department of the Taoiseach on Covid-19 public information campaigns

The government’s communications adviser John Concannon said the state needed to provide clarity on overseas travel as soon as possible amid concerns about indecisiveness on the advice.

Mr Concannon had been told by a senior Department of Taoiseach official that the government was taking criticism primarily because of a “lack of clarity/decisiveness”.

They said a summer message on travel needed to be as “clear a message as possible” in correspondence with the former head of the government’s controversial Strategic Communications Unit.

Mr Concannon had been enlisted by the government to help craft messages as part of key Covid-19 campaigns on travel, reopening after lockdown, the Leaving Cert, and the Shine Your Light initiative.

Internal emails released by the Department of the Taoiseach show particular concerns arose in July over advice on overseas travel.

Liz Canavan – one of the department’s most senior officials – wrote: “I think a lot of criticism has been on a lack of clarity/decisiveness.”

In response, Mr Concannon wrote: “Fully agree that as much clarity as possible needs to be given to the public ASAP.”

You will notice one important record in this FOI release has been entirely redacted. Right to Know has sought internal review of this part of the decision.