Third party in 'fake opinion polls’ controversy
Fianna Fáil has admitted party members posed as market researchers to covertly survey voters.
The admission is significant change of stance by Fianna Fáil and comes after they party first insisted they were not involved in carrying out fake opinion polls.
In a statement given to the Irish Independent last Saturday, Fianna Fáil said “the Party does not and is not aware of any members or candidates” carrying out opinion polls under the guise of fake market research companies.
However, following revelations about Sinn Féin’s electoral practices and in the wake of Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitting his party also carried out fake polling, Fianna Fáil issued a new statement tonight.
A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said the party has “outsourced polling to private, independent providers” since 2007.
“Prior to 2007, we did on occasion use party members to undertake polling and on those occasions they did pose as market researchers. This was to supplement private providers also used. This practise was ended around 2007,” she added.
The statement comes after Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry called for a Garda investigation into Sinn Féin’s use of fake polling companies which he described as “not normal political behaviour”.
Hours earlier, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitted that Fine Gael paid students to misrepresent themselves as pollsters in order to carry out covert surveys of voters.
Following the Independent.ie revelations about Sinn Féin training activists to set-up fake polling companies, Mr Varadkar admitted his party employed similar tactics to gather information on voters.
Speaking to RTE’s Drive Time, Mr Varadkar said his party “quite frankly” did pose as non-existent polling companies to survey voters.
“Volunteers would have been asked to do surveys door-to-door or students would have been paid to do it and it would have been done on a similar basis - anonymised for the purposes of polling,” the Fine Gael leader said.
Mr Varadkar said the “practice has been discontinued” and has not been used by Fine Gael members since 2016.
Earlier Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael have only used private polling companies since he became party leader.
However, Mr Varadkar added that he “can't swear blind about local arrangements that may have been done in the past".
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin has admitted to covertly surveying his constituents using a fake polling company before his first successful election to the Dáil.
Mr Ó Broin’s admission came after Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry called for gardaí to investigate Sinn Féin’s fake polling tactics.
Mr MacSharry said the practice is “not normal political behaviour and “amounts to basic subversion of the public”.
During a series of broadcast interviews Mr Ó Broin defended Sinn Féin’s use of a fake opinion poll company called the Irish Market Research Agency (IMRA) to secretly collect information on the views of voters.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, the Dublin Mid West TD said he used the tactic, which were revealed by the Irish Independent, when he ran for the Dáil in 2016 but said he has not used fake pollsters since that election.
Mr Ó Broin confirmed party members were asked to misrepresent themselves as pollsters using fake IDs to collect information for him in Dublin Mid West.
He said party members who engaged in the covert polling used ID badges with their photos and real names but featuring the logo of the fictitious polling company.
“If I had the resources to employee a private company they wouldn't have been declaring that they were being employed to do the poll on behalf of Sinn Féin. It would have also been anonymous,” he said.
Mr Ó Broin claimed other political parties are also engaged in the practice of surveying members of the public under the guise of non-existent research companies.
During a separate interview with Pat Kenny on Newstalk, the Sinn Féin TD insisted there was “nothing untoward or sinister” about training party members to set-up fake polling companies to elicit opinions from the public.
He said Sinn Fein was not engaged in “deception” of voters by polling them covertly.
Mr Ó Broin said Sinn Féin employed the fake polling company tactic since 2010 and used it over the course of a number of elections.
He said Sinn Féin did not have the financial resources of the other parties during this period and could not pay private polling companies to carry out research.
“When we started doing this back in 2010 we would have been a very small party with limited resources and you are trying to compete with the bigger parties who were able to pay professional polling companies so it was the only way parties like ours were able to do polling,” he added.
Mr Ó Broin also said using fictional polling companies and giving party members fake IDs is a “common feature” of Irish politics. He said the party has grown in recent years and they now use private polling companies.