Averil Power: €2.7k print run of 73,000 calendars 'nothing to do with the election'

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter

Independent senator Averil Power has insisted her decision to print 73,000 calendars through the Oireachtas and send them to voters has "nothing to do with the election".

It comes after she was heavily criticised for spending taxpayers' money on the move.

The ex-Fianna Fáil member made the claim after the scale of the printing - which is amounts to exactly half of voters in her Dublin Bay North constituency - was revealed today.

Freedom of Information Act files revealed earlier today show Ms Power used the Oireachtas in-house printing service to produce 73,000 calendars for next year, a move she said cost the taxpayer more than €2,700.

Among other TDs and senators who used the in-house service for calendars and Christmas cards for constituents are four Government ministers and 17 additional Oireachtas members, including:

* Fine Gael Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan - 17,500 A4 calendars

* Fine Gael Children's Minister Dr James Reilly - 500 Christmas cards

* Fine Gael Sports Minister Michael Ring - 1,000 A7 calendar cards and 3,000 A7 cards

* Fine Gael Minister of State for the gaeltatcht Joe McHugh – 1,600 Christmas cards

* Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell – 30,000 A4 calenders

* Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins – 30,000 A4 calenders

* Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae – 10,000 A4 calenders, 500 A3 calenders and 1,200

Christmas cards

* Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan – 11,500 A4 calenders

* Labour TD Emmet Stagg – 6,000 cards

* Fianna Fail TD Seán Fleming – 4,000 A4 calenders

* Fine Gael senator Paul Coghlan – 1,500 Christmas cards and 2,400 calendars

* Independent senator Jim Walsh – 2,500 Christmas cards

* Labour senator John Kelly – 400 A4 calenders, 1,200 A3 calendars and 700 Christmas cards

* Fianna Fáil TD Bobby Aylward – 2,000 A4 calendars

* Labour Senator Denis Landy – 1,500 Christmas cards

* Fine Gael TD Joe O’Reilly – 1,200 Christmas cards

* Fine Gael senator Martin Conway – 1,000 Christmas cards

* Independent senator David Norris – 600 Christmas cards

* Ceann comhairle Seán Barrett – 450 Christmas cards

* Fine Gael senator Terry Brennan – 300 Christmas cards

* Fine Gael senator Michael Comiskey – 200 Christmas cards

The decisions by the public representatives have been heavily criticised today as being a waste of taxpayers money and having the sole intention of promoting general election candidates in their relevant constituencies.

However, speaking on RTE radio's News at One programme, Ms Power - who left Fianna Fáil after the marriage equality referendum earlier this year over claims party colleagues did not support the yes campaign enough - insisted the election was not on her mind when she ordered the 73,000 calendars.

Despite the documents containing a large photograph of the Dublin Bay North candidate with her contact details and that the 73,000 figure is exactly half of the 146,000 people eligible to vote in the constituency, Ms Power said she simply wanted to provide information to her community on what services are available.

"These are nothing to do with the election. The calendar doesn't say anything about the election, it doesn't ask people to vote for me. It's just useful local information," she insisted.

Ms Power defended her use of public money to pay for the 73,000 calendars weeks before the general election, saying the cost was just over €2,700 and a mere 3.5 cents for each item created.

She said there is "a world of difference between somebody getting a Christmas card from a public rep that they hardly know and getting a calendar that they’re going to keep for the year on their fridge that gives the numbers for local services".

Asked why she should be so concerned about people in her constituency as because she is a senator she technically does not have a constituency.

Questioned again on whether she is not in reality using the calendars to draw attention to her election candidacy, Ms Power said: “My calendar is a simple one-sided A4 piece of card with a list of contact numbers for local services. People find it very useful. In fact, I get calls to the office every year from people looking for copies of it.”

The public controversy followed claims by Renua leader Lucinda Creighton on Tuesday evening that she was not able to print a constituency newsletter because another unnamed Oireachtas member had "huge orders" of Christmas cards in with the Oireachtas service and had created a backlog.

While Ms Creighton initially claimed the order was for 85,000 Christmas cards, the Oireachtas has no information on such an order, with Ms Power saying when asked if the claim related to her calendars that they were ordered in late November not in recent days.

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