Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Markpress Agency.

Thursday, 4 May 1972

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 260 No. 11

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1.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  asked the Taoiseach if his attention has been drawn to the report that the public relations agency retained by the Government has gone bankrupt; if so, if he will indicate whether any re-negotiation of the contract recently extended for another year between the Government and Markpress is contemplated in the light of this; and if he will give an assurance that there will be no diminution of the standard or scope of services undertaken by Markpress on behalf of the Government in the future.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Mr. Andrews): Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I have seen the recent reports relating to the bankruptcy in Switzerland of a company in which Mr. H. William Bernhardt is a principal.

The contract between my Department and Mr. Bernhardt, trading as Markpress, Geneva, which is not bankrupt, will expire within the next few weeks. The question of entering into a new contract is at present under consideration.

[1666] The standard and scope of the foreign public relations' services necessary for the Government are kept constantly under review by me in the light of the requirements of the situation.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  Would the Parliamentary Secretary state (1) if this will be taken into consideration and (2) if he is satisfied with the work done so far by Markpress?

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  In reply to the first part of the Deputy's question, all relevant matters of course, will be taken into consideration. My information is that those who are dealing with Markpress are satisfied with their present operation.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Will the Parliamentary Secretary have regard to the general concern that the public relations of this country should be in the hands of a foreign agency, one associated with having oversold in another country, to the extent that it damaged it? Will we be sure that full consideration will be given to this and that there will not be a re-negotiation of this contract in the light of the general feeling in this country on the subject?

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I cannot say at this point in time what the terms of the re-negotiation of the contract will be. I can assure the House that all relevant factors will be taken into account before finality is reached.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  Surely the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is not desirable in the national interest that the service of information from the State and Government Ministers should be in the hands of an outside agency? There are within the country men of quite exceptional competence who are quite capable of doing this work in the national interests without having to trot off to the Continent to get somebody to do it for us.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  In view of the fact that public funds are spent on this would it be possible for the House to have details of the work done by Markpress since they were engaged?

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I am not in a position to give that information to the [1667] Deputy at the moment but I am sure that when the vote for the Department of the Taoiseach is being discussed in the House at some future time this information will be forthcoming. In relation to Deputy Desmond's remark, he sets himself up as the keeper of the national interest.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  After the nominations this morning you are in great need of public relations.

Dr. FitzGerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Indeed, yes.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  Yes, and I am sure the Deputy's performance in relation to the Common Market in his own constituency is being noted in the context.

Mr. Desmond: Information on Barry Desmond  Zoom on Barry Desmond  I will see the Parliamentary Secretary in Europe on Thursday.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I wish the Deputy would come out and say in his own constituency that he wants to go into Europe. If the Deputy wants to be informed about any other matters I will be glad to give him whatever information he requires. The point I was making was that the Deputy stated that there are people in this country who would be adequate for this particular job. I accept that there are very highly qualified people in the country. I take the Deputy's point. As I said, these matters and other related matters will be taken into consideration when a decision is being made in the context of a new contract.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  I am calling Question No. 2.

Dr. O'Connell: Information on John F. O'Connell  Zoom on John F. O'Connell  When the Parliamentary Secretary said that these details would be available for discussion on the Taoiseach's Department could he tell us when these will become available? Will they be made available beforehand.

Mr. Andrews: Information on David Andrews  Zoom on David Andrews  I would imagine if there is anything to be negotiated it will be sub judice a new contract.

[1668]Mr. Dowling: Information on Joseph Dowling  Zoom on Joseph Dowling  Could the Parliamentary Secretary say if the American public relations officer employed by Deputy O'Connell has any tie-up with Markpress? Is he aware that recently the public relations officer employed by Deputy O'Connell issued an invitation to Dr. Paisley to stand as a Labour Party Candidate in my constituency in the next election? Does this show clearly that the Labour Party are tied up with the Paisleyites in Belfast?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin  Zoom on Cormac Breslin  This question has nothing to do with the question asked. I am calling Question No. 2.


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