Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD has raised some serious questions about online spending by the government. Deputy Tóibín raised the matter with the Taoiseach in the Dáil this afternoon.

He said: “Taoiseach, under the last government a decision was made that all online advertising for various Departments would go through the Department of An Taoiseach. Is this still the practice and what controls are in place to monitor government spending and can he furnish me with a report/breakdown on the spending of taxpayer funds on advertising by the government?”

The Meath West TD  continued: “I think we do need to have controls on online spending of taxpayer money. Two million is a lot of money, and obviously, we need to advertise on health campaigns, etc. But is there another agenda at play here? We’re all familiar with the Cervical Check scandal, and the amount of coverage that has received internationally. By strangely if you google the words ‘cervical check Ireland’, you’ll note that the first page of results omits any mention of any scandal or any news reports – government ads have buried the news articles. It is strange that there are just enough ads to push all news items to the second page of results, precisely enough to remove the scandal from the first page”.

“Also, it is worth noting that HSE ads for cancer screening, cervical check and breast check continued throughout this pandemic despite the fact that a decision had been made with government involvement, to stop screening services. Why did the HSE continue to spend money advertising a service that was not available? I would urge the Taoiseach to furnish this house with a report on government online advertising to date this year, providing a clear breakdown on where taxpayer money was spent – will you do so, Taoiseach?” asked the Deputy.

The Taoiseach said he was ‘perplexed’ by the question but confirmed that he would ‘check it out and get back to Deputy Tóibín’. He did not commit to furnish the house with a report or breakdown on online government spending this year.