Cate McCurry, PA
A Fianna Fáil TD has called for gardaí to investigate reports that Sinn Féin allegedly provided its members with fake IDs to pretend they were part of a polling company.
Reports released in the media on Wednesday morning state a 77-page internal training manual gave members "detailed instructions" on how to pose as researchers working for a polling company to question voters and compile data.
The document said to ask voters about their intentions under the guise of the 'Irish Market Research Agency' (IMRA), which does not exist, according to the Irish Examiner.
Members would ask people for their opinions on election candidates and political issues.
Referring to party members posing as pollsters, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar told RTÉ that similar practices had been used by Fine Gael prior to his time as party leader, but were discontinued by 2016.
Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo Marc MacSharry said the practice amounted to “subversion of the public”, adding he was “shocked on one level but not surprised on another”.
“The provision of fake IDs to prescribe what people say on behalf of a political party is not normal political behaviour and I think the gardaí should be consulted on it," he told Newstalk.
“We are all used to in politics tackling people on one another’s polices, and certainly that’s not difficult on Sinn Féin’s Toytown economics than others’, but when we have proof over a 77-page manual, telling, training and encouraging personnel how to lie, providing them with fake documents, says a great deal about the organisation.
“It’s extremely worrying.”
Mr MacSharry said it needed gardaí involvement.
“I would certainly like to hear their view,” he added.
“We have all come across people looking to illicit things from the public, we know that data is a commodity now and people are paying for it now.
“Anyone using fake ID to prescribe a dishonest outcome from people they are engaging with is not honest and not the sort of wholesome activity we expect from our establishment.
“I would amazed if the gardaí did not have something to say abut this.”
A Sinn Féin spokesperson responded to the matter, saying: “All parties conduct private local opinion polling. The document referred to in the Irish Independent story is many years old.
“These days we generally use professional companies for polling services. Polling is completely different to canvassing.
“No private information or data is ever collected or stored; on Abu or anywhere else. It is entirely anonymous – that is the whole point of it.”
Earlier, the party’s housing spokesman Eoin Ó Broin said there was nothing “untoward or deceptive” about the practice.