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Fact check: Myths of the election debunked


Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

Micheal Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Leo Varadkar. Photo: PA

1 Leo Varadkar claimed: "The number of homeless in Northern Ireland is 20,000". He was arguing other jurisdictions have serious problems too.

FACT-CHECK: Just under 20,000 households are on the Northern Ireland Housing Executive's housing waiting list in the way that around 69,000 are on the waiting lists in the Republic.

But the actual homelessness figure in the North (ie. those in hostels or other emergency accommodation) is closer to 5,000 with the equivalent in the Republic being around 10,400.

VERDICT: False. There is a difference in terminology between North and Republic.

2 Mary Lou McDonald claimed that issues with the growing cost of the State pension could be reversed if younger people are encouraged to start families through the ability to own their own homes. She said "demographics will follow".

FACT-CHECK: The CSO and KPMG have predicted a major increase in the number of over-65s in the coming decades. The ratio is expected to fall from 4.9 workers per pensioner, to two per pensioner by 2055.

KPMG predicted the social insurance fund could clock up an accumulated deficit of €404bn by 2071.

VERDICT: Highly suspect claims, especially considering the latest expert predictions.

3 Leo Varadkar claimed his govern-ment restored Garda recruitment, while Fine Gael said Garda numbers, at 14,300, were at their highest in a decade.

FACT-CHECK: There were just under 14,400 gardaí in 2010. That figure steadily declined to a low of 12,800 under the Fine Gael/Labour coalition led by Enda Kenny. Recruitment was increased year on year since 2015 under the outgoing government.

VERDICT: True. The most recent Budget provides for the recruitment of 700 additional gardaí in 2020. This is expected to bring Garda numbers up to 14,700 this year, the highest level since 2010.

4 Fine Gael previously promised to abolish USC, according to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

FACT-CHECK: The abolition of the USC was the number-one commitment that Fine Gael made to voters during the 2016 election campaign. Then finance minister Michael Noonan described the USC as "easily the most hated tax in the country".

However, the proposals were dropped in July 2017, shortly after Leo Varadkar took over as Taoiseach. Policy shifted to the idea of integrating the USC into the PRSI system.

VERDICT: True. While Fine Gael has reduced the USC and income tax rates since 2016, the party's big tax pledge from the last election was abandoned.

5 Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald claimed that banks pay no tax.

This led to a row with Leo Varadkar who argued that while they pay 0pc corporation tax, the Government designed other ways of collecting income from banks. Ms McDonald replied: "They pay nothing."

FACT-CHECK: After years of turmoil as a result of the economic crash, our banks have returned to profit. However, they still pay a tax exemption which permits them to write off taxes against past losses.

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said the imposition of a bank levy is a more appropriate way of taxing bank. The State still owns 71pc of AIB and officials warned changing the tax regime could hurt its value.

VERDICT: False. While banks don't pay corporation tax, it is wrong to suggest they "pay nothing". The State collects €150m every year through the bank levy.

6 Micheál Martin claimed: "We have the lowest level of homeownership in this country since 1971."

He blamed the Fine Gael government for this - but Leo Varadkar instantly hit back claiming the biggest fall occurred under Fianna Fáil governments.

FACT-CHECK: Homeownership rates in Ireland have traditionally been above the EU average - but in recent decades the number of people with their own property has fallen. In 1991, homeownership stood at 80pc - but by 2016 it dropped to 67.6pc.

The number of owner-occupied households fell from 1,149,924 to 1,147,552 between 2011 and 2016 (when Fine Gael was in power).

VERDICT: Partly true. Fianna Fáil was correct to say that homeownership is at its lowest level in decades - but this trend had begun long before Fine Gael came to power.

Homeownership actually peaked at about 80.1pc in 1991.

7 Leo Varadkar claims Sinn Féin doesn't support the Special Criminal Court and is soft on crime.

FACT-CHECK: Before the last election, Sinn Féin said it would abolish the non-jury court which deals with paramilitary and gangland crime. Its position has softened since then and the same pledge is not in its current manifesto.

The party's justice spokesman Martin Kenny recently suggested "a review".

VERDICT: True. Sinn Féin clearly has long-standing issues with the non-jury court. While its stance has shifted a bit, it is still not happy with the court as it currently operates.

Fianna Fail has been confirmed as the largest party in the Dáil by the narrowest margin over a surging Sinn Fein. Micheal Martin’s party finished with 38 seats to Sinn Fein’s 37 at the end of two days of counting. But with the Fianna Fail Ceann Comhairle was re-elected without contest, both parties essentially ‘won’ the same number of seats.

Irish Independent