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’…

, , ,

  • London_Irish

    “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.”

    Mick,

    Was he not also chief whip at the time?

  • It isn’t two days ago since Mary Lou had an article in the Irish Mail on Sunday complaining about untouched expenses for Oireachtas members and exorbitant salaries for special advisers and junior ministers. Shouldn’t SF answer a simple question: What is the ‘average’ salary paid to the TDs/Senators from the fund gathered by SF from these salaries?

  • Pete Baker

    “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.”

    Well, as the Irish Times report notes

    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”.

    And, as his party colleague, and party deputy president, Mary Lou McDonald, has said,

    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 according to the Politics.ie post on the original story, that €3,700 bill, which he now says he’ll pay right away, has been outstanding since March 2010.

    He’s had two reminders since then.

  • Framer

    Sure its public money to which TDs are entitled as part of their duty when assisting their constituents. And Sinn Fein TDs only accept an average industrial wage as salary saving the state ever more money.

  • London_Irish

    Pete,

    Think your post/link raises an important point re what can/can’t/should be printed on Oireachtas equipment etc.

    I have received correspondence with a number of different parties – which I won’t name – which were solely relating to internal party issues (as part of academic research). On each occasion, I received replies in pre-paid Oireachtas envelopes, on Oireachtas headed notepaper which were presumably printed on Oireachtas printers with Oireachtas ink. This was quite wrong, as far as I am concerned.

    The Oireachtas needs a kick up the proverbial like the one Westminster got in light of the expenses scandal, and more importantly, a complete overhaul in attitudes towards expenses in public office. I am not suggesting that the situation in London is in any way perfect, but at least there was a wake up call and a real dent in the excuse ‘I acted within the rules’…

  • and a snippet from the Examiner:

    He said: “When you see it in that type of figures, it look excessive, but in those years I would have produced quite a vast amount of literature in the constituency informing people of a wide range of material.

    “At that stage I would have had the constituency office open 49 weeks of the year, producing literature and material.”

    “It was meant for houses – the Oireachtas gave us industrial printers and that’s the way they presented it, I made full use of it.

    He claimed that is what reflected in the cartridge uses.

    “Since then, I have totally reduced that and I concentrate more on photocopying.

    “Also the change in Irish society where people use Facebook and Twitter and the likes of that to get information out quite quickly.”

  • Henry94

    Mass leafleting of the constituency at the taxpayers expense is outrageously undemocratic. How can other candidates not yet member of the Dail compete with that?

    Sinn Fein should go well beyond the amount outstanding under the rules to put this right. Many of us are looking to them to provide an alternative not to be just like the others.

  • Framer is under the impression that Sinn Féin TDs accept only ‘an average industrial wage’ and thus cost the State less. What actually occurs is that SF garnishes the salaries of their TDs and Senators and other Oireachtas employees and leaves them the ‘average industrial wage’, That costs the State the same as if the TDs/Senators were getting the full whack. It’s just that SF gets the benefit. It’s debatable whether this is proper procedure – who is the employer of a SF TD – the taxpayer/voter or the Party?

  • JH

    Isn’t it better being spread out in the party to employ more people? That definitely saves the taxpayer money.

    Call me cynical but it seems just a little coincidental that this happens a few days after SF receive their highest ratings ever in the polls.

    €25k a year for ink to print off protest posters is nowhere near the import of the expenses scandals of previous Government TDs.

  • Drumlins Rock

    THREE MILLION PAGES !!!

    Think about it guys, thats in excess of a 300 metres high stack of A4 paper, as tall as The Shard in London, soon to be Europes Tallest building.

    Is it feasable to actually print that amount of paper? it takes 10 seconds for my printer to do a page, lets half that even, gives you over 166 hours solid printing, thats crazy.

    You would think he would know more about that, his father is a publisher after all…..

  • Mick Fealty

    I think the coincidence if there is one, is the degree to which it caught SF on the back foot on the day we knew there was going to be a referendum on the fiscal compact.

    It’s a ridiculous story, by which I mean it’s a genuine story but a ridiculous scenario. It remains to be seen whether Aengus can prove (or Moloney disprove) that all these posters were for constituency use only.

    I agree with Henry that using state funds intended for representation for narrow political advantage is unacceptable. Mary Lou appears to be saying the same thing (without actually saying it of course).

    But where do you draw the line? Does it include employing party workers in constituency office on your salary?

  • Alias

    Good questions from Senator Thomas Byrne. However, laser printers don’t use ink. As the Shinner was using toner cartridges, he’d also have to replace the drum on average every 20k pages (depends on the make and model). A drum for a small Samsung or HP laser printer will cost almost as much as the printer.

    As one toner will typically last 10 – 15k pages, this costs for the drums should be about par to his cost for the toner. So, who funded the 50k for the drums?

    Does he have an eBay account…?

  • Pete Baker

    Here’s another telling quote from the publishing entrepreneur

    Deputy O’Snódaigh said that while it might look excessive, it was justified, as the toner was used to produce literature to inform members the public about matters of interest.

    He said that he has done nothing wrong, and that social media has largely overtaken the traditional leaflet when it comes to reaching the public.

    “When you see it in that type of figures, it look excessive, but in those years I would have produced quite a vast amount of literature in the constituency informing people of a wide range of material,” he said.

    At that stage I would have had the constituency office open 49 weeks of the year, producing literature and material. [added emphasis]”

    It was a veritable cottage industry.

  • cynic2

    Shouldn’t there be an enquiry into where this public property went. The accounts given are simply incredible.

  • Mark

    An enquiry cynic2 , more like a lynching down here . The main evening paper had a piece that went from cartridges to McConville in two sentences .

    Are we expected to take that kinda gutter journalism seriously ?

  • Reader

    Alias: As one toner will typically last 10 – 15k pages, this costs for the drums should be about par to his cost for the toner. So, who funded the 50k for the drums?
    Surely that moves into another area – with such a massive amount of printing of circulars, wouldn’t it be much, much more economical to pay a printing company to do the work properly than to use a red hot laser printer? Or would that money come out of a different pocket?
    And another thing – how large was each print run – Did he leaflet every household in the state? in the constituency? in the party?

  • pauluk

    Never mind the ink. Just think of all those dead trees!

  • cynic2

    Are we expected to take that kinda gutter journalism seriously ?

    As seriously as the explanations?

  • BluesJazz

    How many trees were felled to produce this gibberish:

    DG31101252_1e_UlsterScot_Regional.pdf

  • BluesJazz
  • BluesJazz

    The UK an Ireland Govrenments haes hecht tae mak siccar that TG4 will be proffert on
    Freeview tae the maist feck o Northren Ireland, an forby thon will faceelitate the proveesion
    o RTÉ 1 an RTÉ 2.
    Aw hames will get the follaein chainels as staundart:

    classic.

  • BluesJazz

    This (taxpayer funded document) is indeed useful

    Yer quaistins answert
    Dae A need tae get a new TV?
    Naw, ye dinna need tae get a new TV, as near ony TV can be convertit, e’en a black-an-white
    ane. Maist deegital kisties connects tae a TV uisin a SCART cable. Gin yer TV haesna a SCART
    socket on’t, yell need tae speir oot a deegital kistie wi an inbiggit ‘RF modulator’.
    Whit shoud A leuk for gin A decide tae get new graith?
    Leuk for TV sets, deegital kisties an deegital TV recorders that cairies the ‘deegital tick’ logo.
    It means that thay’r purposed tae cairy on wirkin efter the cheenge-ower.

    The Help Schame can help awbody that:
    • Is aged 75 or ower, or
    • Has bade in a care hame for sax month or mair, or
    • Gets (or coud get) a wheen disabeelity benefits, or
    • Is registert blind or pairtly sichtit.
    The Help Schame will write aw taxable fowk nearer the time.

  • Harry Flashman

    “And much as I cannot stand expenses scandals for the sheer beside-the-pointless”

    Why so?

    Surely these expense scandals cut right to the bone in political life? More so than a million phoney debates about issues that never change.

    Who cares what an MP or TD’s opinion is on West Papua? No one is interested in the latest speech he made in his constituency, but whether the man can be trusted not to slip his hand into your pocket when he reckons no one’s looking is an absolutely basic, fundamental issue of character and of immense concern to voters.

    All else is merely so much hot air.

  • Alias

    Bluesjazz, if my typing skills get any worse, I’ll be able to type fluent Ulster-Scots.

  • Mick Fealty

    A little more transparency around procurement might be more productive.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It’s just that SF gets the benefit. It’s debatable whether this is proper procedure – who is the employer of a SF TD – the taxpayer/voter or the Party?

    The SF TDs are paid as normal and then donate much of their salary, net of tax, to the party. They say they are paid an average industrial wage, they really mean that it’s what they make do with.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Harry,

    I agree with you there.

    And it’s not a case of picking on SF as some are trying to say. Jackie Healey Rae got a lot of scrutiny over his outrageous abuse of his telephone privileges.

  • JR

    Hit the nail on the head Harry on the expenses. I would love to know the make of the printer and why the refil cartriges are over €200

    I think the Ulster scots stuff is great. We fill out our DARD forms in Ulster scots. It turns what was a very dry exercise into one of eye watering hilarity,

  • Tochais Síoraí

    I hear O Snodaigh is going to be the main speaker at the Wolfe Toner commeration this year.

  • nickyjg

    This could easily be resolved by asking why you can get between 20 and 70mpg at different times on the same car, and also by doing some honest maths.

    Can you possibly get 3.25m (or approaching that) pages of what he was printing from 434 cartridges and 3 printers over two 49wk (office opened) years.

    Time wise. Easily. At least 30 pages per minute these will print.100,000 pages per week.

    Capacity wise. Printing very very sparsely populated pages on very large capacity printers in 2007 may possibly achieve this at almost 10k pages per cartridge.

    However (and assuming Dail office printers are not all ultra industrial, but relatively standard for small offices) he seems to have been printing flyers and mixed media letters which would ordinarily see you yeilding 1000 or so pages per cartridge.

    That’s 434000 pages over two years.
    10 pages of stuff each for half the constituency over two years…..

    I’d say that would be much closer to the reality than the way this story has been presented by the Irish Daily Mail and Independent… and just after SF in the polls are approaching being the largest party in the South.

    Mmmmm!!

    .

  • Alias

    “I’d say that would be much closer to the reality than the way this story has been presented by the Irish Daily Mail and Independent… and just after SF in the polls are approaching being the largest party in the South.”

    Of course blowing 50k of taxpayers money on self-promoting junk mail at a time of severe fiscal austerity might have something to do with it too.

  • nickyjg

    Severe fiscal austerity???? Ireland in 2007 and 2008???

    Are you for real??

    However, I know you are not and that it is very likely you simply didn’t have the wherewithal to cop on to the basic details of the case so will allow that abject failure serve as the best possible comment on the voracity of your post.

  • cynic2

    Was it party material or his own constituency material?

    A good guide for any laser printer is about 1.3p ie 1.5c / page. On that basis €50,000 of cartridges should be producing about 3 million pages oif text.

    Now clearly he cant have done that himself so where did the cartridges really go to? Did SF use them for party purposes?

    Why is there no Garda enquiry into this?

  • Alias

    “However, I know you are not and that it is very likely you simply didn’t have the wherewithal to cop on to the basic details of the case so will allow that abject failure serve as the best possible comment on the voracity of your post.”

    Nice try, child, but we’re talking about media/public reaction to the Shinner’s extravagance at the taxpayers’ expense. The public reaction didn’t occur in 07/08, did it? No, sonny, that is occuring in 2012 at a time of severe fiscal austerity.

    It’s odd that you don’t remember the topic since you introduced it:

    “I’d say that would be much closer to the reality than the way this story has been presented by the Irish Daily Mail and Independent… and just after SF in the polls are approaching being the largest party in the South.”

    Still, you’re a loyal Shinner toady, and I’m sure you’ll be duly patted on the head for it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Explosive stuff.

    The Irish media’s intrepid commitment to exposing corruption is one of the main reasons Ireland has such an envied reputation for integrity and transparency in public life. Bravo to the ladies and gentlemen of Middle Abbey Street.

    Only last week, we had the Times’ exposure of Martin McGuinness’s ‘payments’ to Hugh Morgan (i.e. he filled up the bus at a Morgan Fuels station).

    This week, a TD goes a bit mad with the printer.

    One can’t help thinking that, if this is the best the establishment media can find – and God knows, they are trying really, REALLY hard to find something, anything – then it really doesn’t amount to much.

    And, frankly, that SF are virulently hated by all the right people.

    I read this story in the Indo today. I came away with a much stronger sense of the corruption of the Irish Independent than of SF.

  • Harry Flashman

    “One can’t help thinking that, if this is the best the establishment media can find”

    Oh heavens no, this is pretty minor stuff compared to what they found when the Gardai went digging on a beach in county Louth or when they asked the late Frank Hegarty’s ma about her conversation with a recent presidential candidate.

    Not to mention what was found in the back of a van being driven by O Snodaigh’s campaign workers a wheen of years back.

    But apparently that’s all of no consequence so the printer cartriges will have to do I suppose.

  • Alias

    “I read this story in the Indo today. I came away with a much stronger sense of the corruption of the Irish Independent than of SF.”

    A classic example of shooting the messenger.

    As for it all being a plot by securocrats, err, “the establishment” to undermine the Shinners. The establishment currently has ‘one of its own’ before the court on fraud charges for the sum the matter of €4,416.

    So a district court judge can be prosecuted for fraud, but will be even see the Gardia investigate the Shinner? No, because they’re making themselves useful to another State in other matters and the Irish policy is to offer co-operative Shinners the same status of ‘protected species’ in crinimal matters that is offered to them by the British state.

  • 241934 john brennan

    It used to be pinching pins and paperclips from the stationery store. Now it’s expensive print cartridges – but SF always thinks big.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    ‘But apparently that’s all of no consequence so the printer cartridges will have to do I suppose.’

    Nail on the head, old chap.

    The southern media has been dredging up the troubles for years, as a means of attacking SF, and to great effect. But recent polling suggests it’s not really working any more, so they’re trying something else.

    It’s a mark of the ubiquity of corruption within the Irish establishment, that the media (which does its bidding) is so worried about SF’s claims to NOT being corrupt. They know the potency of the idea that these guys aren’t in it for what they can get out of it – and how it contrasts with FF/FG/Lab.

    Monitoring the centres of power in society: that is the role, and the moral justification for journalism.

    In Dublin, though, journalism is a weapon wielded by the centres of power, to protect themselves from any and all who would challenge them.

    Alias

    The Irish Independent is not a messenger. It is a player.

    And I presume the Gardai will not be investigating O Snodaigh, on the grounds that there is no suggestion he has broken the law.

  • Little James

    They have not confined their rampant printing to the south, Pat Doherty has spent £16,500 in the last two and a half years on printer cartridges according to todays Irish News.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Pat who?