More contrived stories in Sunday Indo

“Bertie Sinks as house market is going under” roared the Sunday Independent today (Sunday, 4 March), followed by its breathless first paragraph: "A Sunday Independent opinion poll this weekend has shown a crack in the political infallibility of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, who is adjudged by a large minority to have made a number of crucial tactical errors in recent months”.

Yet again, the newspaper leads with a story that has little or no basis in fact and, which, in any event, contradicts the screaming headline and first paragraph.

The “poll” does not suggest Bertie Ahern “sinks” in the ratings – it shows him and his government far ahead of the opposition. Also the “poll” itself is thoroughly unreliable and of no significance.

Evidence of Bertie's failing infallibility its  “opinion poll”  which shows an increase in the government's poll ratings n the past month and at a level in the polls which would see the present government easily return to office (42 per cent). Fine Gael/Labour/Greens is showing at just 34 per cent, a drop of two points.

The “poll” shows Bertie Ahern s the preferred choice as Taoiseach among 59 per cent of the electorate with the only alternative, Enda Kenny at just 41 per cent.

The sole basis for the claim that Bertie Ahern is weakening is other findings in this “poll”: stamp duty is a major issue among 48 per cent and most people think Fianna Fail was mistaken not to have changed the level of stamp duty in the December budget.


Another warning sign for Bertie Ahern is most people think the Planning Tribunal should fast-forward its hearings to allow the Taoiseach to be questioned about Quarryvale before the election.

This poll was not undertaken by any of the reputable research organisations. It was, according to the Sunday Independent, “conducted by professional researchers using questions prepared by the Sunday Independent editorial team” on a sample of 500. The Sunday Independent adds: “Sunday Opinion is not a phone-in poll and is therefore not capable of being influenced by individuals or interest groups”. The “poll” is entirely unreliable and of no significance.

Last Sunday (25 February) The Sunday Independent lead with the headline: “Homes seized as property crisis worsens”. Its first paragraph read: “Evidence is emerging of a significant increase in the repossession of houses by financial institutions as owners struggle to meet their mortgage repayments and are finding it difficult to sell their houses at realistic prices”.

The first piece of evidence in substantiation of this claim turned out to be no such evidence at all. “The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (Mabs) yesterday said more families are deferring payment of their gas and electricity bills, so that they can meet their mortgage repayments”.

A Sunday Independent telephone poll (the kind of poll which they stated today was open to manipulation by interest groups) allegedly found that while only 31 per cent said they would be voting for a party which promised stamp duty reform, a significant majority of 58 per cent want stamp duty reform before the election.

On the central issue of the story – repossession of homes – the following was the “evidence”: “Statistics on repossessions are compiled by the Irish Mortgage and Savers Association but its figures are collated from building societies only and do not include banks. Its most recently compiled figures, now five years out of date, show a drop in the numbers of repossessions, thanks to economic prosperity and the then booming property market. In 1995, 193 houses were repossessed by building societies compared with 25 in 2002. But in January, Irish Life & Permanent reported 14 repossessions on its own, an indication that the total for all institutions combined must have risen significantly.

“Although official figures remain elusive, anecdotal evidence of a return to an increase in house repossessions is emerging”.
It transpires that the only evidence in fact is “anecdotal” evidence. Aside from unnamed “sources” around the country.

On Sunday, 4 February, The newspaper ran with the headline: “Lawlor widow: Tribunal aided Dunlop on tax”

It quoted the widow of the late Liam Lawlor (who the Sunday Independent grossly libelled in its “report” of the circumstances of his death in a car accident in Moscow) as claiming a planning tribunal lawyer gave "tax advice" to the lobbyist, Frank Dunlop. She based this on a transcript of a private interview between the lawyer and Mr Dunlop.

The lawyer in question, Patrick Hanratty SC, said that it "would indeed be highly unusual and inappropriate" for the tribunal to furnish advice to a witness on his private tax affairs and he declined to make any further comment, because he is bound by confidentiality in relation to his work for the tribunal.

The Sunday Independent went on to rubbish its own story in reporting: “Legal sources yesterday played down the significance of Mrs Lawlor's allegations, and predicted that they would not be substantiated. According to one top lawyer: "This claim is grossly inflated. The words in question are being taken entirely out of context. To describe this as 'tax advice' is ludicrous."

The quotation in the transcript on which Mrs Lawlor, apparently, based her claim is: "In the context of, if you are receiving money for the purpose of disbursement to councillors, then you would be mad to - if I may say so - to declare it as income, because it is not in fact income."