An Irish Examiner story, for the record, not one of ours.
We have higher standards, you see.
Anyway, here’s what they wrote. It went super-viral online, as you might expect:
“A number of TDs have raised the question of new allowances to allow them to purchase office equipment while they work from home during the Covid-19 outbreak.
British MPs were last week offered an extra £10,000 (€11,500) to help with the purchase of new equipment for them and their staff to assist them in working from home.
Though it was reported that MPs had given themselves the increase, it was in fact the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Here in Ireland, it is the Houses of the Oireachtas that would make the decision to offer a new allowance.
Sources say the question of extra funding to pay for office equipment or laptops has been raised by a small number of TDs.
Some staff have asked about access to better internet connections, new computer and printing equipment, and additional funds for increases in mobile phone bills.”
Notable in that: Not one single TD who asked for more cash was named. Why not? If you’re a journalist and you know who exactly has been asking the taxpayer for a few bob for a new laptop at a time of national belt-tightening, wouldn’t it strengthen the story immeasurably to name them? What have you got to lose?
In fact, if you didn’t know exactly who the culprits were, it would be a little bit dodgy to print the story in the first place. “Unnamed people apparently did something” isn’t a story – it’s speculation with a byline.
And, surprise surprise, it turns out to be entirely fake. And TDs are, understandably, annoyed about it.
Here’s Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne, making sure to relay the news from the Oireachtas itself:
Contrary to some media reports, TDs did not seek a Working from Home Allowance. I did not believe that any would. The overwhelming majority of politicians in all parties and none are genuine and certainly not in politics for financial gain. pic.twitter.com/sr7i5GEKcj
— Malcolm Byrne (@malcolmbyrne) April 17, 2020
So that’s fairly definitive. The Oireachtas Press Office is not a party political operation, and it has no reason whatsoever to lie.
So, how did the Examiner get it so wrong?
Notable, you’d have to say, is that only one party’s representatives are actually quoted in the piece:
Sinn Féin Dublin Mid-West TD Mark Ward said that while working from home is “not ideal”, TDs are “paid more than enough” and said that, if anything, TDs should take a pay cut.
“We’re paid more than enough at this stage,” he said. “In fact, we’re on the record as saying that there should be a reduction in TDs’ wages.”
“Any supports that are out there at the moment for people to work from home should be given to small and medium enterprises that are really struggling.
“I have people around my area that have closed their businesses and are struggling and don’t know if they’ll get it back after Covid-19. Any additional money should be given to businesses who need it, not TDs.”
It might be entirely coincidental, of course (if you believe that, you’ll believe anything) that just last week SF TDs were tweeting out this form statement about how all of them were actually returning some of their pay to the exchequer. Here’s Eoin O’Broin:
At a time when so many people have lost their jobs & funding is needed for front line health & care services I cant accept a wage increase.
I am again returning the full post FEMPI pay restoration & increase (€8188.44) to the exchequer. I am paid more than enough. pic.twitter.com/530PeIP01r
— Eoin Ó Broin (@EOBroin) April 6, 2020
And Padraig McLochlainn:
At a time when so many people have lost their jobs and funding is needed for front line health and care services, I cant accept a wage increase.
I am returning the full post FEMPI pay restoration & increase (€8,847.28) to the exchequer. I am paid more than enough. pic.twitter.com/Wv0jpbcPMG
— Pádraig Mac Lochlainn TD (@PadraigMacL) April 6, 2020
And good ol’ Reada Cronin:
In solidarity with ppl who've lost jobs, essential workers both in my former work in social care and others, I can't accept wage increase. Increases for politicians wd be better used to fund much services.
I'm returning full FEMPI pay restoration increase €8188.44 to exchequer. pic.twitter.com/1dXL7oFlJx
— Réada Cronin TD (@ReadaCronin) April 6, 2020
There are more than that, but there are just too many SF TDs these days to post them all.
Still, how interesting. In the days after Sinn Fein TDs take to social media to post about their brave returning of a pay increase, a false story appears in the Examiner, with condemnatory quotes from a Sinn Fein TD, about other parties demanding more cash?
The Examiner got played like a fiddle. Some members of the public did, too.