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McGrath accuses Taoiseach of lobbying for ban on online referendum adverts

The No side said earlier this week that the government had a hand in lobbying for the Google decision to ban all adverts.

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INDEPENDENT TD MATTIE McGrath has accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of lobbying tech giants Google and Facebook to ban advertising relating to the upcoming Eighth Amendment referendum.

Earlier this week, Facebook announced that it was banning adverts on the upcoming vote that originate outside of Ireland, while Google announced a blanket ban on any Eighth-related advertising.

At a press conference of a group of No campaigners on Wednesday, pro-life spokespeople accused the government, the media and the Yes side of orchestrating the Google ban to try to rig the referendum in favour of a Yes vote.

The No side said that it had planned significant advertising spend through Google and YouTube in the coming weeks and that the ban was “preventing campaigns that have done nothing illegal from campaigning in a perfectly legal matter”.

McGrath echoed this today on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics, and mentioned the Taoiseach directly in relation to the lobbying of the tech firms in relation to online adverts.

“I wonder who prompted them. I have a fair idea,” he said. When pressed by host Aine Lawlor what he was referring to, McGrath said “the Taoiseach”.

McGrath added: “The people can see what’s going on. They don’t trust the government.”

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Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan strongly denied that this was the case.

“That’s a very strong allegation,” she said. “I’d like to see the evidence of that, Deputy McGrath.

Absolutely [I deny this]. As the deputy knows, it’s very important to know who pays for these ads.

She said that the tech companies had come to these decisions on their own, to which McGrath replied: “You expect us to believe that?”

Both McGrath and Madigan, and other panellists Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher and Independent Michael Healy-Rae, agreed that online advertising was an area that needed to be regulated.

There are now less than two weeks until the referendum, on 25 May.

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Sean Murray

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