FAKE news tactics could be used to target Irish voters in next year's European elections, a senior Dublin politician has warned.

Senator Neale Richmond of Fine Gael said right wing campaigners may see Ireland as a soft target after the UK vote for Brexit in 2016.

Elections to European Parliament are taking place in Ireland and other EU nations in May 2019.

The UK will not be part of the vote due to Brexit.

Richmond, Fine Gael's Europe spokesman in the Seanad - the Irish parliament's upper house - said right wingers may see Ireland as their next target.

Richmond said tactics similar to those used by Cambridge Analytica could be used by Eurosceptics to make inroads in Ireland.

The tactics centred on the mass harvesting of personal data and the manipulation of voting.

Former Cambridge Analytica Christopher Wylie told MPs that Vote Leave and other pro-Brexit groups had a "common plan" to get round spending controls.

Appearing before the Commons media committee he said they all used Aggregate IQ, a "franchise" of the data analytics firm, to target swing voters, using information drawn from Cambridge Analytica's databases.

Richmond, who is in the same party as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, warned of American and Russian interference in Irish politics, along similar lines.

He said there was a “heavy American influence” in the recent abortion referendum.

Richmond said: “From early on in our recent referendum campaign we saw a surge of online advertising from a range of new groups.

“It was unclear who was directly financing these groups and if they were in contravention of Irish campaign finance laws.

"On social media we saw multiple pages using the same messaging, imagery and language to target groups under different umbrellas.

"There was certainly a heavy American influence on the No campaign and a genuinely concern that the adverts were being placed by American groups either directly or through proxy new groups.

"The original 1983 Referendum was heavily and overtly influenced by American religious groups.

"The proliferation of Twitter-bots during the Referendum and in relation to Brexit has been very evident and they follow the standard profile of such accounts.

"Concerns have been raised by myself and others about the potential Russian influence over Irish politics, Russia Today has an office of five staff in Dublin for example but there is no overtly far right or even Euro-sceptic grouping thankfully in Ireland at this stage.

"What we have seen though has been an attempted start of a Euro-sceptic Brexit movement. Nigel Farage's European Parliament grouping poured huge money into a kick off event he was addressing in Dublin last February with a truly base and utterly fraudulent campaign video advertised online.

"Thankfully the event only attracted a couple of hundred people while a recent opinion poll found Irish people to now be 92 per cent pro EU. "

The fears were echoed by Brian Hayes, an MEP for Fine Gael.

He added: "The point is well made as we are quite exposed on this as are any democratic societies.

"We saw attempts at outside influence in the abortion referendum.

"We need to look at the influence of social media in the abortion referendum.

"We know of the dangers of fake news and misleading adverts."

Richmond and Hayes spoke out after SNP MEP Alyn Smith addressed an event in Dublin last week about 'false news and the European election'.

Smith said that a similar right wing force to UKIP could emerge in Ireland.

He said: "I’ve said to all the colleagues in Brussels that I see the ingredients of Brexit in every EU member state.

"The EU is uniquely vulnerable to fake news because, and here’s problem one, wherever you are in Europe, the EU is always “somewhere else”.

"I think we need to stop pretending that there isn’t an organised, professional and motivated campaign underway to weaken Europe’s democracy and solidarity.

"UKIP and their merry band of cranks, shysters, oddballs and useful idiots, and they were indeed the sideshow, to distract us from a deeply professional, well resourced, well motivated campaign to neuter left and right in UK public opinion and paralyse the political mainstream.

"And fake news was the major plank in their campaign, sustained, widespread and increasingly targetted."

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, which centred on the mass harvesting of personal data and the manipulation of voting,