herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Council's shock as anti-water charges councillors rack up €5,500 printing bill

Tina MacVeigh
Tina MacVeigh
John Lyons

DUBLIN City Council is investigating its very own 'Inkgate' controversy after councillors racked up a €5,500 printing bill, the Herald can reveal.

Dublin City councillors John Lyons and Tina MacVeigh, who are prominent anti-water charges campaigners, printed a staggering 140,000 leaflets in recent weeks.

The pair, who were last night present at a demonstration in Dublin, have been told they must now pay back the money to the city's coffers.

The Herald has learned council chiefs launched a probe amid fears that the large-scale printing by councillors involved in the anti-water charges demonstrations represented an "abuse of public funds".

Mr Lyons and Ms MacVeigh, who are members of the People Before Profit Alliance, printed 140,000 leaflets. A significant proportion of the literature encouraged people to attend anti-water charges protests and to boycott the charges.

PRINTED

Mr Lyons is said to have printed 100,000 leaflets, at a cost of €3,800, while Ms MacVeigh printed 40,000 leaflets and is facing a bill of €1,700.

Well-placed sources close to the council expressed their shock at the scale of the printing, which is unprecedented in the history of Dublin City Council. Both Mr Lyons and Ms MacVeigh are members of the Right 2 Water campaign and regularly attend demonstrations opposing the charges.

Mr Lyons previously described Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour Party and Green Party politicians as "cretins", f***ers" and "parasites".

Ms MacVeigh, who is based in the Crumlin/Kimmage Ward, is also an avid anti-water charges protester. She made headlines in 2013 after she was involved in occupying the constituency office of Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne.

The demonstrators then posted a video of the occupation on YouTube - which shows an extremely distressed Ms Byrne calling gardai when they refused to leave.

The video shows the Dublin South Central TD shouting at the demonstrators to "get out". But they refused to do so and Ms Byrne is seen in the video leaving the premises before gardai arrived.

DEFENDED

When contacted by the Herald, both representatives defended the level of printing.

"Printing is a facility provided to all councillors.

"This has never been an issue in the past. Facilities are provided to all of us so that we can carry out our duties on behalf of our constituents," Ms MacVeigh said.

Mr Lyons said he is "disappointed" that the issue of his printing activities have been "leaked to the media".

"Everything I have produced is council-related and is about issues pertinent to Dublin City," he said.

However, the party's group leader in Dublin City, Brid Smith, pointed out that People Before Profit politicians do not attend so-called council junkets unlike other parties on Ireland's largest local authority.

She added that she hopes the pair will not be forced to pay back the monies the council says they owe.

It's understood that Dublin City Council Executive Manager Vincent Norton became deeply aware of the scale of the printing by the two councillors through a tip-off.

The matter has been discussed at senior council level in recent days and both councillors received letters detailing the scale of the costs incurred.

SHOCK

Other party members in Sinn Fein, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour privately expressed their shock at the scale of the printing.

"While there previously has been no limit imposed, I have never heard in my years on the council somebody printing at this level," one councillor said.

Dublin City Council has now imposed, for the first time, a limit of 2,000 leaflets per councillor per month, the Herald has confirmed. Lord Mayor Christy Burke said he will attend a meeting between the councillors and Dublin City Management next week.

A spokesperson for the council refused to comment on the details of the case but said the matter will be addressed at committee level.

"This matter will be reported to Dublin City Council's next Protocol Committee. It would not be appropriate to comment in advance of that meeting," they said.

hnews@herald.ie

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