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Get checked: How a team of five people is factchecking the truth about Northern Ireland

A new project called FactCheckNI is aiming to find out the truth behind claims about Northern Ireland.

A loyalist mural in east Belfast.
A loyalist mural in east Belfast.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

NORTHERN IRELAND IS a society with a lot of questions.

Does it really have the lowest disposable income in the UK? Do 1 in 5 people living there really have a disability? What about the gigantic peace walls which bisect some communities  - is it true that most people want them to stay?

A new project called FactCheckNI is aiming to answer these, and many more questions about Northern Ireland.

FactCheckNI was launched in Belfast last week, and its team of five people will rigorously check claims made about Northern Ireland by politicians and in the media.

Already on its site, the team has checked a claim that the ban on paying for sex in Northern Ireland has led to an 80% increase in the number of sex workers in the Republic of Ireland – and found that while it is difficult to get accurate data on sex workers, the claim is ‘unlikely’.

The team also checked a claim by a businessman that people in Northern Ireland have less than half of the weekly disposable income compared to households in the rest of the UK, and found that while Northern Ireland’s economy is growing, it is still disproportionately behind the rest of the UK.

The people behind the site say that it will give the public access to unbiased facts, will help to keep politicians honest, and may possibly help to change public policy in the process.

“We’ve all seen the suspicious photo meme on Facebook, but people don’t realise how this can be used maliciously to provoke violence on our streets,” said Enda Young, who is involved with the project.

FactCheckNI will provide free tools, information and advice, so that anyone can check the claims that are made by politicians and the media.

There are already more than 100 fact-checking projects in almost 40 countries around the world, according to Alexios Mantzarlis, the head of the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute in the US – including our own project here at TheJournal.ie

“What makes fact-checking so appealing is its ability to counter a widespread preoccupation of a lack of objectivity in politics, in the hope that a public discourse grounded in facts will lead to better policies and a healthier polity,” said Mantzarlis.

Read some of our FactChecks here > 

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