INTERNATIONAL: Comms reshuffle as Ahern is re-elected

DUBLIN: The Irish government has reshuffled its top comms line-up following the re-election of Bertie Ahern as Prime Minister.

Ahern has promoted former press secretary Joe Lennon to a newly created special communications adviser role, which involves acting as PR aide to the Prime Minister, who was re-elected last month.

Lennon's appointment sees former Fianna Fail press officer Mandy Johnston take over Lennon's previous responsibilities heading the Government's press office.

At 30 years old, she is the youngest-ever person in the role. She is also the first woman to take the position.

Johnston has been press officer for the Department of Finance and finance minister Charlie McCreevy for the past five years.

Her duties as Ahern's media handler include briefing political correspondents and liasing with the media when the Prime Minister travels around Ireland and overseas.

A spokesman for the Irish government said: 'Joe is now an adviser to the Taoiseach and Mandy is a co-ordinator of government press officers throughout each department.

She is the main liaison between the Government and the media.'

Johnston worked for Fianna Fail - the dominant Irish political party that heads the recently formed coalition - prior to the 1997 general election and has also previously worked for the Football Association of Ireland as press officer.

The Irish general elections on 17 May saw Ahern re-elected Prime Minister for a second five-year term.

It is believed Ahern created the communications adviser post to fulfil a similar role to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's director of communications and strategy, Alastair Campbell.

Ahern was named leader of Fianna Fail in November 1994.

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