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Eoghan Murphy says there were 'crazier' ideas than Varadkar's to create pro-Fine Gael online accounts

A new biography of Varadkar’s rise to power says that he suggested creating anonymous accounts to comment on news stories.

project 2040 441_90546210 Source: Sam Boal

MINISTER EOGHAN MURPHY has defended the Taoiseach’s idea to create anonymous accounts to make positive comments on news, by saying there were “crazier ideas than that going around”.

In a book published this week about the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s rise to the highest political office, it recounted a suggestion by the Taoiseach to drum up positive reaction to news.

At one point, Varadkar floated the idea to one TD of creating anonymous accounts to make positive comments under online stories on popular news websites.

“It’s unclear how far the proposal was pushed,” the book says. 

‘Leo: A Very Modern Taoiseach’, is co-written by Irish Independent Deputy Political Editor Philip Ryan and Niall O’Connor, who’s an adviser to Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe.

When asked about that suggestion today, Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy said the following:

“I saw something about that – I didn’t read the full story, I don’t think there’s much to it.”

It sounds like the kind of political remarks one might make, when you’re kicking around more hare-brained ideas over a coffee.
Let me tell ya, there were more crazy ones than that going around as well.

When a reporter quipped “What were they?” Murphy brushed it aside.

Varadkar and the media

Varadkar has faced criticism as Taoiseach for being too concerned with his image or the perception of his government and not engaging in innovative policies to solve issues such as the housing crisis and numerous problems in the healthcare sector.

Earlier this year, Varadkar announced at Cabinet that his Strategic Communications Unit would be wound down by July, after being established in 2017.

It was criticised as a ‘government spin machine’ and the €5 million budget it was given to highlight positive initiatives by the government, was consistently referenced by opposition politicians when asked how their suggested policies could be funded.

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The unit came under particularly strong criticism in relation to a government advertising campaign around the Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework.

Questions were raised about how advertorials in newspapers were presented during the €1.5 million rollout of the plan (for example, whether stories advertising the plan were marked as ‘sponsored’ or inserted in the ‘news’ section). 

On 4 July, Leo Varadkar came under sharp criticism after reportedly saying at an event for the Irish diaspora in New York City that he sympathised with Donald Trump’s views on the media, and singled out RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigates programme.

Varadkar responded by saying that he “profoundly regrets” if anyone thinks he doesn’t support a free press in Ireland, adding that he said a lot of “positive” things about the Irish media during the meeting, but that “none of that got reported”.

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