Leo Varadkar confirms Fine Gael paid students to pose as non-existent polling companies 2 weeks ago

Leo Varadkar confirms Fine Gael paid students to pose as non-existent polling companies

It comes following reports that Sinn Féin set up fake polling companies to survey voters.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has confirmed that Fine Gael paid students to misrepresent themselves as pollsters in order to survey voters.

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Following reports on Wednesday that Sinn Féin had set up fake polling companies, Varadkar admitted that his party had used a similar tactic which he says has since been "discontinued".

The Irish Independent reported that an internal training manual included instructions for members of Sinn Féin on how to misrepresent themselves and pose as pollsters when surveying householders.

According to the publication, members would then ask people for their opinions on election candidates and political issues.

Speaking to RTE’s Drive Time on Wednesday Varadkar said: “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.

Varadkar added that the “practice has been discontinued” and has not been used by Fine Gael members since 2016.

The Tánaiste said that the party has only used private polling companies since he became party leader, adding that he “can't swear blind about local arrangements that may have been done in the past".

Fianna Fáil TD Marc Macsharry said on Wednesday that "Gardaí should be consulted" over the claims that Sinn Féin provided its members with fake IDs to pretend they were part of a polling company.

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On Newstalk Breakfast on Wednesday, Marc Macsharry described the polling as "basic subversion of the public.”

"Provision of fake IDs to proscribe what lies people say on behalf of a political party is not normal political behaviour and I think the Gardaí should be consulted quite frankly on it," he said.

“I think when we have proof now of a 77-page manual telling, encouraging and training personnel how to lie, providing them with fake official documents or would-be official documents, I think, says a great deal about the organisation.

“It is extremely worrying and I don’t know anybody involved in politics up to now, who would have engaged in such subversion in the modern democratic world.

“We all have come across people looking to elicit things from the public and we know that data is a commodity now that people are prepared to pay money for."

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The TD added that he "would be amazed if Gardaí didn’t have a comment to make on this".