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Politics

Varadkar 'suggested creating anonymous accounts online to make positive comments on news'

  • TDs react to explosive book claims that Taoiseach suggested creation of anonymous online internet accounts
  • Suggestion was 'made while contesting the Fine Gael leadership race'
  • Claim described as 'shocking stuff' by Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless
  • 'The alleged course of action wasn't taken and was never seriously considered' - spokesman for Mr Varadkar
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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA
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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is facing a storm over 'fake news' amid an explosive claim he suggested the creation of anonymous online internet accounts to make positive comments about news.

Mr Varadkar is alleged to have floated the idea while he was contesting the Fine Gael leadership race.

The claim - included in a new biography of Mr Varadkar - has been described as "shocking stuff" by Fianna Fáil TD James Lawless.

Mr Lawless claimed that suggesting "fake accounts should be deliberately deployed for political advantage" could amount to "electoral fraud" and "fake news".

Last night, a spokesman for Mr Varadkar insisted "the alleged course of action wasn't taken and was never seriously considered".

A detailed account of the Fine Gael leadership contest is included in a new biography - 'Leo: A Very Modern Taoiseach' - by Irish Independent Deputy Political Editor Philip Ryan and Government adviser Niall O'Connor.

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‘Lame excuses’: TD James Lawless accused Varadkar of being obsessed with spin. Photo: Tony Gavin

The book outlines how Mr Varadkar brought a team together to make his bid to succeed former Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader. It describes how the campaign's social media strategy was devised.

The book says: "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."

Last night, Mr Lawless accused Mr Varadkar of being "obsessed with spin". He claimed the allegation in the book shows why his proposed Online Advertising and Social Media Bill has stalled. Mr Lawless accused Mr Varadkar of offering "lame excuses" for refusing to support the bill.

Mr Varadkar's spokesman responded to Mr Lawless's claims about his stalled bill.

"The Government isn't supporting James Lawless's bill on social media as parts of it restrict free speech and would even restrict normal political activity like organising protests or meetings," he said, adding the Government is willing to work with Mr Lawless to "improve it".

Irish Independent

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA

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‘Lame excuses’: TD James Lawless accused Varadkar of being obsessed with spin. Photo: Tony Gavin