herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Free loader

Sinn Fein's Aengus and his €50k ink-cartridge bill

SINN Fein loudmouth Aengus O Snodaigh has been branded a "freeloader" after he ran up a €50k bill for ink cartridges.

The TD, who fancies himself as a future SF leader, got an incredible 488 print cartridges from Dail supplies -- worth an average of €130 each.

The bill -- covering just three years -- was picked up by the taxpayer, with O Snodaigh claiming he used the cartridges to print leaflets.

The number of complimentary office supplies he received would have printed 3 million pages.

Speaking to the Herald today, the Dublin TD claimed he had done "nothing wrong".

However, Mr O Snodaigh – one of the opposition's most vocal critics of lavish expenses – came under enormous pressure today to pay back some of the printing costs.

The extravagant spending means he was printing the same amount as seven TDs combined.

He claimed that the large amount of printing was done to “serve my constituents”, adding that he often printed leaflets with “lots of colour and big pictures”.

“I want to make it clear that I've done nothing untoward or illegal here. The printing carried out in my office may have been a bit excessive, and I have a €3,700 bill that I must repay, but I was not lining my own pocket,” he said.

But Sinn Fein Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald did little to defend her colleauge today, admitting the costs were “very large and excessive”.

“I think by any standards €50,000 is excessive for that purpose. I think it is fair to say, Deputy O Snodaigh at the time had no idea that that was the sort of costs involved.”

The party spokeswoman on public reform added: “Since then the system has been changed, there is now a cap on these cartridges. That is how it should be. The cartridges were used legitimately. The costs involved are very large, they are excessive, but he didn't break any rule,” she claimed.

Certain

Leinster House sources today told the Herald that Mr O Snodaigh was “infamous” for going “overboard” on printing.

“He, and a number of his colleagues, were constantly having the printing presses going. These figures are not surprising. They went overboard to say the least and it's the taxpayer who is paying at the end of the day,” a source explained.

In 2007, Mr O Snodaigh clocked up a staggering €25,959 bill – well clear of the second highest spender, Fianna Fail's Michael Moynihan (€7,635). And the following year, the SF deputy cost the taxpayer €24,702 in printing costs alone.

Fianna Fail’s Michael Martin called for the “extraordinary amount” to be investigated.

“At a flippant level I was saying this morning ‘what is it with ex-revoluntionaries in this country that they have a love interest with printing machines’,” he said.

Leinster House bosses were so alarmed by his spending habits that they changed the rules in 2009 and imposed a limit on the free ink allowance. However, Mr O Snodaigh continued to squander taxpayer's funds and again spent more than any other TD.

The printing activity was so large, the politician could have sent almost 340 letters to each of his 4,825 people who gave him their number one vote. Mr O Snodaigh today rejected the notion that he was guilty of gross misspending.

He told the Herald: “We are always out leafleting and we use material with big pictures and lots of colour. Nobody from Leinster House pulled me up over this at any stage. I will have to talk to them now as to how this bill accumulated but I don't believe I've done anything wrong.”

And he rejected suggestions that he may have been allowing Sinn Fein's republican newspaper An Phoblacht and colleagues across the country to use his facilities.

“I accept that this bill is under my name, and I understand why people would be alarmed at looking at these type of figures but the local community has benefited greatly from our literature.

“I was not printing pages for An Phoblacht, they have their own printing facilities. I was not printing stuff for colleagues down the country.”

The costs caused alarm among his constituency colleagues in Dublin South Central today. Fine Gael TD Catherine Byrne described them as “very substantial”, adding that Sinn Fein would be “the first to attack us if the shoe was on the other foot”. And Labour TD Eric Byrne said he was “gobsmacked” by the amount.

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