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Debunked: Fabricated quotes and made-up commentators feature in 'vote-rigging' news story

Claims of electoral interference often follow patterns made by Trump supporters

A STORY CLAIMING that Fine Gael has launched an investigation into allegations their councillors were involved in potential “vote rigging” is false.

The story, which contains numerous errors, relies on supposed testimony from anonymous witnesses, as well as quotes from Fine Gael; Transparency International Ireland; DCU’s Dr. Eoin O’Malley; and Dr. Claire McNamara, a lecturer in political science at Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

However, Fine Gael, Transparency International Ireland, and O’Malley have all confirmed to The Journal that their quotes were fabricated and that they did not speak to the publisher of the vote-rigging story, a news site called The Irish Channel.

Trinity College’s political science department confirmed that the lecturer mentioned, Dr. Claire McNamara, does not exist.

“This is just one example of the falsehoods being circulated online in the aftermath of the election by groups and individuals who are keen to sow distrust in the Irish electoral system, with many taking influence from similar movements that did the same in the US following the 2020 presidential election there,” Aoife Gallagher, a senior analyst with the Institute of Strategic Dialogue, a counter-extremism think-tank, told The Journal.

Vote rigging

The story, “Allegations of Vote Rigging in Irish Local Elections: A Deep Dive”, was posted to The Irish Channel on Saturday and tweets promoting the story have been viewed tens of thousands of times on

“Reports are surfacing from across Ireland suggesting that Fine Gael councillors may have been involved in transporting large numbers of refugees and immigration applicants to polling stations to secure votes for individual candidates,” the story begins.

However, at no point does it back up these claims, other than with short anonymous reports from “one Dublin resident” and “a local community worker”.

The article does correctly note that “under Irish electoral law, any person who is ordinarily resident in Ireland, regardless of nationality, is entitled to vote in local elections”.

However, the article also argues “while it is not illegal to provide transportation to voters, the ethical implications are significant, particularly if it involves coercion or undue influence”, and that such acts may be “manipulating the electoral process” — an argument that relies on fabricated quotes, including one purporting that Fine Gael had launched an investigation.

Claims of voter manipulation

The Journal had registered a surge in conspiracies shared in anti-immigration groups about migrants voting ahead of the local elections, with many claiming that registering them to vote, or campaigning in their areas was a sign of democracy being subverted.

Some of these claims were shared by election candidates that would go on to win council seats, such as Glen Moore of the Irish Freedom Party, Patrick Quinlan of the National Party, and Independent candidates Malachy Steenson and Gavin Pepper, who wrote on, “Pro replacement parties trafficked unpermitted immigrants to the polling stations to alter this election”.

(The term replacement likely refers to the the conspiracy theory known as the “Great Replacement” – that posits that the native (white) people of Europe are being replaced by non-white immigrants, often Arab or Muslim people, and that this is orchestrated by a group of clandestine, powerful elites.)

Non-citizens have long been allowed to vote in local elections, as was confirmed in the Twentieth Amendment, approved by referendum in 1999, which enshrines local elections in the constitution.

Data provided by the CSO indicates that there were more than 3,930,000 adults in Ireland in 2022. This figure has likely risen, though even keeping with the lower number, this suggests that asylum seekers make up less than 0.6 percent of the potential voters in local elections.

Research carried out in the wake of the 2019 local elections in Dublin showed that only one in 10 registered non-EU residents turned up to vote in the capital.

Ciarán O’Connor, a senior analyst with the ISD, argued ahead of the election that the spread of claims about asylum seeker votes laid the seeds for a ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign like that which prompted an attack on the US Capitol in order to prevent the the 2020 presidential election from being certified.

However, since the election, these groups have increasingly focussed on claims that politicians or groups had helped asylum seekers to vote, or arranged transportation to polling stations.

“Bussing asylum seekers to polling booths to vote like sheep is an attack on our democracy”, one such claim online read.

Fabricated quotes

The Irish Channel’s first attributed quote comes from “Dr. Claire McNamara, a lecturer in political science at Trinity College Dublin”, who warns that providing transportation to asylum seekers “becomes problematic if it crosses into the territory of vote-buying or coercion”.

However, TCD political science lecturer Claire McNamara does not exist.

“There is no lecturer in our department with that name,” a spokesperson with the TCD Department of Political Science told The Journal.

While there is another person listed at TCD with the same name, she is not a doctor, nor a specialist in political science — she is instead a postgraduate student of Computer Science. That Claire McNamara confirmed the quotes are not from her.

The article then goes on to quote Fine Gael, saying that they had launched an internal investigation and, curiously, “Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has called for a comprehensive review to restore public confidence in the electoral process.”

Leo Varadkar was replaced as Fine Gael leader by Simon Harris earlier this year. 

“This is a completely made up quote and should not be attributed to Fine Gael. We never communicated with that website,” a Fine Gael spokesperson said.

The article continues:

“Political analyst Dr. Eoin O’Malley from Dublin City University emphasised the potential impact of these allegations. ‘If voters lose faith in the integrity of elections, it can lead to disengagement and cynicism. Ensuring that elections are free and fair is fundamental to maintaining a healthy democracy,’ he stated. 

“No, I didn’t…” O’Malley told The Journal in response to inquiries on the article.

Though it sounds like something I might have said. But I certainly didn’t say it in response to alleged fraud in these elections.”

The article then goes on to quote from Transparency International Ireland, which they claimed had issued a statement calling for an independent inquiry into the allegation.

“We have not been presented with any evidence of vote rigging in the local elections and never made any such statement to ‘The Irish Channel’ or anyone else on the allegations made on the website,” a spokesperson from the group told The Journal.

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