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'As far as we know' Labour members did not engage in fake polling, says Ó Ríordain

The TD says no such polling was ever “sanctioned” by the party leadership.

Labour TD Áodhán Ó Ríordáin.
Labour TD Áodhán Ó Ríordáin.

LABOUR’S AODHÁN Ó Ríordain has said he would be “surprised” if members of his party had engaged in the fake polling that other political parties have admitted to doing in the past. 

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin and the Green Party have all acknowledged that members had previously conducted surveys for local representatives without being up-front about who they were representing but that this practice was discontinued in the past decade. 

Speaking yesterday, Fine Gael’s deputy leader Minister Simon Coveney said the practice “shouldn’t have happened” but that those that engaged in such tactics should “put their hands up” to admit to it. 

Asked today whether his party is looking into whether its members had also engaged in similar activities, Ó Ríordáin told reporters that “as far as we know” no such fake polling took place. 

“I know in my own case in the last two elections we’ve employed a polling company to do a poll. And when anybody asked who they were they said a polling company and if they were asked they said it was on behalf of the Labour Party,” he said. 

Asked whether covert Labour polling had happened in previous elections, Ó Ríordáin said he’s “never heard of it in our party”. 

He added that what he’s heard from other parties involved polling that was “sanctioned from the very, very top”.

“There’s a big difference between somebody deciding to do a bit of a poll in their local area and it coming from the top of the party,” he said.

As far as we know, there’s never been any head office, or Labour party sanctioned example of any of this, if somebody set it up on an individual basis in their own area we’re not aware of it.

Football curriculum  

Ó Ríordáin was speaking as his party proposed a new football coaching programme that would see transition year students undertake daily soccer coaching as part of the curriculum.

The proposal comes on the day Euro 2020 kicks off without Ireland’s participation and Labour says the proposal could help the country’s future football prospects.

The party says the programme would cost about €50,000 per school per year and that it would be paid for directly by a 0.25% increase in the betting levy

The plan is partly based on an in-school football development model devised by former Irish international Stephen Elliott that is employed in parts of the UK. 

Ó Ríordáin said that the plan would also potentially provide additional incentives for teenagers who play the game to stay in school. 

If you look at the makeup of those playing the game in Ireland, 30% of those who are playing League of Ireland football in the men’s game only have a Junior Cert as their qualification, so we’re trying to use football within the education system to lift people up, to improve the standard of the game, the standard of coaching and to make football an integral part of the education system. 

Labour’s Dublin Bay South by-election candidate Ivana Bacik said the scheme could be particularly beneficial for girls who play football as it would encourage them to play longer into their teenage years. 

“We’re really seeing a difficulty at secondary school level, particularly for teenage girls, where it’s very hard to keep girls involved in team sport. So I think the idea of the football academy for boys and for girls at secondary school, at that crucial time in transition here could be a real game changer for the development of soccer in Ireland,” she said. 

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The Dublin Bay South constituency is home to the Aviva Stadium which had been due to host four matches at the tournament.

The games were taken away from Ireland in April after the Irish government was unable to provide assurances to Uefa that a minimum number of fans would be allowed in the ground. 

Bacik said she felt it was the right decision that Ireland did not provide such assurances in April to keep the matches. 

“I think it’s probably the right decision. regretfully, but I think it’s right to see now gigs taking place under these controlled conditions and testing the ground with it,” she said.

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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