FACT CHECK: Did Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar Say That Introducing A Rent Freeze Could Create A ‘Nightmare Scenario’?

Mecca Fowler | Contributor

An image shared on Facebook over 19,000 times claims that Irish Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) Leo Varadkar said that introducing a rent freeze could create a “nightmare scenario” that would allow low-income people to buy property.

Verdict: False

There is no evidence Varadkar made those remarks. The claim originated with a satirical Twitter account.

Fact Check:

The Facebook post shows a screen grab of an Oct. 2 tweet from user @DrHaroldNews that reads, “Leo Varadkar warns introducing a rent freeze could create a ‘nightmare scenario’, where landlords would be forced to sell their extra houses, which would then drive house prices down, allowing low-income people to get on the property ladder.” The tweet includes an image of Varadkar being interviewed on RTÉ News in August.

There is, however, no evidence that Varadkar made the statements attributed to him. Nothing resembling the comments could be found on his verified social media accounts. There are likewise no local media reports about the alleged statements. The purported remarks appear to be satirical, as the @DrHaroldNews Twitter account labels itself as “fake news, made-up quotes, topical satire.”

The image of Varadkar featured in the tweet is from an Aug. 6 interview he did with RTÉ News. Varadkar spent much of that appearance addressing accusations that he breached COVID-19 guidelines while attending a recent social event. At no point in the interview does he address freezing rent, according to Check Your Fact’s review. (RELATED: Did Congress Pass A Bill Giving First-Time Homebuyers $25,000 In Down Payment Assistance?)

“This claim is entirely false,” said Sarah O’Neill, a spokesperson for Varadkar, in an email to Check Your Fact. “It was put forward by an Irish satire website. The Tánaiste believes in home ownership and secure, affordable rents.”

Rent controls are becoming a contentious topic in parts of Europe, according to CNBC. Varadkar defended the government’s regulation of rent control in September, saying that there needs to be “a balance” between controlling rental pricing and landlords’ revenue, the Irish Times reported. “One person’s rent is another person’s income – it might be their pension, it might be how they pay their mortgage,” he said according to the outlet.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include a response from a Varadkar spokesperson

Mecca Fowler