These are your taxes. And once more, a frankly inexplicable sum of your taxes is ending up in the pockets of a well-connected PR firm.
Here are the figures, provided to Carol Nolan, TD, when she had the good wits to ask for them. They concern monies paid by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland) to Carr Communications over the past three years:
There are a few things to say, here.
First, the fees paid by the EPA under this contract seem – to me, as an ex PR man – genuinely extortionate. Averaging almost a quarter of a million per year, for public relations advice? For the Environmental Protection Agency? Forgive me if I’ve missed something, but the EPA is not usually the subject of hostile or trying media coverage. Nor does it generally find it difficult to get media coverage – a press release from them about the “climate crisis” will generally lead the news because journalists are interested in this stuff, and eager to amplify it. Do they really need to be paying a communications consultancy a quarter million per annum of taxpayer money for communications advice? Perhaps inflation really is biting, or perhaps Carr Communications really is just that damn good.
Second, Carr Communications is no small business. It’s amongst the oldest, most prestigious consultancy firms in the country, and is famously well connected in the political class.
Third, the timing is presumably coincidental, but also undoubtedly helpful to Carr, coming, as these contracts did, in the middle of the Coronavirus, when business slowed down for just about everybody. When business slows down, as a former PR man, I can tell you that PR contracts are about the first thing to go when people look to cut costs. Unless, of course, it’s a state body that does not need to cut costs. So very lucky for Carr, I guess.
Fourth, the most important point: The gulf between how the Climate Industry impacts the ordinary person, and how it impacts the great and the good: You will pay more for diesel, but Carr Communications will trouser a quarter of a million per year to help explain why it is actually good that you are paying more. Farmers will have to cut back, but Ministerial advisors will earn six figures to develop key messages about why this action is vital for the climate. You granny may not be able to afford to heat her home, but we’re going to fund all sorts of NGOs to campaign on climate poverty. There’s a shortage of homes, but we’re going to lavishly fund builders and wealthy people to insulate homes that already exist. This is just another example of how “we’re all in this together” is Ireland’s most oft-repeated lie.
This is perhaps the single biggest way the climate crisis and its management has clear echoes of the covid crisis: Then, as now, it was quite easy for people with families and four bedroom homes and jobs in city centre offices to tell working class people and those in tiny apartments to “stay home, and stay safe”. There very simply exists in this country a protected class which bears none of the consequences of progressive social and economic policy, even as it lauds it to everybody else.
Neither Carr Communications nor the EPA have done anything wrong or illegal, here, of course, but this kind of lavishing of money around to all the right people is a big symptom of the disease that currently afflicts Irish politics. In its own way, of course, it’s just the same as it ever was.