Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

TD defends 50,000 euro ink bill

Sinn Fein TD Aengus O'Snodaigh says he is not a freeloader and will pay back the money he spent on ink cartridges

A Sinn Fein TD who ordered 50,000 euro worth of printer cartridges in just two years through his Dail office has insisted he is not a freeloader.

Aengus O Snodaigh used over 400 toner cartridges at the taxpayer's expense in 2007 and 2008 - he claimed to print leaflets for his constituency. And the Dublin South Central TD said he would never have run up such an excessive bill had the Oireachtas told him how much it was costing the public purse.

Mr O Snodaigh said: "I'm no freeloader. Part of my job as a public representative is to ensure that the public who elected me are informed about what's going on in the constituency."

His colleagues described him as a prolific leafleteer. He admitted that while in hindsight the amount was excessive, the stationery and expenses officials in the Oireachtas should have had a system in place to prevent the bill from rocketing.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has called for an investigation into how so many printer cartridges were used and what it was used for. He said Sinn Fein should be held to account for running up such a bill when other TDs manage to keep their usage in check.

"It needs to be investigated, there is no doubt this is an extraordinary amount," said Mr Martin. It is believed the 50,000 euro worth of ink would have meant Mr O Snodaigh printing 1,000 letters for every one of his constituents over the two-year period.

He argued the cost was so high because he printed leaflets in colour, which often included high resolution pictures. Mr O Snodaigh denied the ink cartridges were used by the party outside his own constituency.

Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald described Mr O Snodaigh as a prolific leafleteer saying that, coupled with the fact his constituency is so large led to the excessive use of ink. Ms McDonald admitted that while the 50,000 euro bill was excessive, she agreed with Mr O Snodaigh that the Oireachtas system was just as much at fault.

Officials in the Oireachtas were forced to introduce a new system in 2009 for the use of ink cartridges. A 2,000 euro cap was imposed, meaning TDs have to pay for whatever they use on top of that. Mr O Snodaigh has run up a 3,000 euro bill since then, which he has not yet paid.

He said: "I will pay it. I've no excuse. It's a bill that will stay with me until I do. It's not as if I put that money in my pocket and walked away scot-free." But he has not said if he will pay back any of the 50,000 euro bill.

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