Printergate: “How many printers has he gone through to print 3 million pages?”

Well on one level it’s pretty small beer (compared to the Quinn story). On another almost risible. And much as I cannot stand expenses scandals for the sheer beside-the-pointless of, it’s worth mentioning the Aengus O’Snodaigh’s prodigious use of free printer toner from the Oireachtas revealed in an FOI. Some wit has already been at Aengus’ wikipedia page, adding:

It was at UCD that Ó Snodaigh fell victim to an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder with respect to collecting printer ink cartridges.

Well the big splash in Dublin today it’s his use €50,000 worth of ink cartridges in just two years. That’s 434 cartridges at €130 each, 215 in 2007 and another 219 in 2008.

As the Irish Times notes Printer cartridges were available free of charge to TDs and Senators up until 2009 when restrictions were introduced on their use. The TD apparently owes the Dail €3,700 for outstanding bills.

The Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne has some questions:

“It is impossible to see how he could have got through this volume of ink cartridges without using them for election material, private use or some other purpose. I run a busy constituency office, with weekly leaflets printed on a constant basis for a variety of issues and my spend in 2007 was just 6% of what he used.

“If Deputy Ó Snodaigh’s is telling the truth about the use of these materials, there will be an enormous knock-on effect to other elements of his office expenditure. How much has the taxpayer spent on his office electricity bills for example? How many printers has he gone through to print 3 million pages? What volume of paper has he taken from the Dáil to fuel this printing frenzy?

“If his account is correct, every single registered voter in his constituency should have received at least 37 letters from the Deputy in just two years. However, our office has received various calls from Dublin South Central voters who are adamant that they have never received a single scrap of literature from him.

Useful to remember that O’Snodaigh was only one of 4 SF TDs in that period, so it may have been that his machine(s) was being used for all TDs comms. What he can’t be sure about is whether the journalist, Senan Maloney of the Irish Daily Mail, who put in the FOI has any follow up. Or whether this is just another one-day-wonder?

Updates (from Pete below): Key quote from Mary Lou McDonald:

Asked if she could guarantee that Mr Ó Snodaigh used the cartridges to print information for use in his own constituency only, Ms McDonald said she could. “I think by any standards €50,000 is excessive for that purpose,” she added.”

And:

“Speaking this morning, Mr Ó Snodaigh defended his use of the ink, saying the cartridges were used to print party leaflets. He told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that he “would have been known as the most prolific leafleters in the country, within the party”.

According to the original Politics.ie report, that €3,700 bill, which he now says he’ll pay tomorrow, has been outstanding since March 2010. And he’s had two reminders of it already.

Presumably that’s a hell of a lot to find for anyone who’s budgeting himself to the ‘average industrial wage’…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty