Figures reveal Senators’ publicly-funded print run ahead of election

Senators seeking to be elected to the Dáil make up nine of the top 10 places on the publicly funded Oireachtas printing facility, new figures show.

Since January 1, the taxpayer has funded the printing for senators of more than 850,000 items including newsletters, sympathy cards, calendars, compliments slips, and other documents highlighting their work to the public.

The total cost to the taxpayer for the service was €20,725.

Despite not having constituencies, many senators operate local organisations in the area they seek to be elected to, and use the service offered by the Houses of the Oireachtas to spread their message.

Figures released to the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act show that many senators have printed tens of thousands of leaflets and newsletters for distribution to the area where they have access.

Of the top 10 largest jobs ordered by senators since the start of the year, only Sinn Féin’s Niall Ó Donnghaile is not seeking election to the Dail. He ordered 40,000 A4 colour newsletters to be printed at a cost of €1,029.

A Sinn Féin spokesman said Mr Ó Donnghaile has done a lot of work around the campaign for the Hooded Men and used the newsletter to publicise that effort.

The single largest job was ordered by Limerick-based Fine Gael senator Maria Byrne. She has been selected to take the place of retiring TD Michael Noonan, the former finance minister, at the next general election.

According to the figures released, Ms Byrne ordered 44,000 A4 colour newsletters at a cost of €1,100.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner to explain the high print run, she said: “As a proactive public representative for the past 19 years, I strongly believe in keeping as wide a constituency as possible informed of my work be it through social media, print media, broadcast media, my own printed work, or at local events. It is a vital part of participative democracy.”

Her party colleague and Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer, who is a former TD for Cork South Central and who is selected to run alongside Tánaiste Simon Coveney at the next election, accounted for two of the top ten orders.

On one occasion, he ordered 25,000 A4 colour newsletters at a cost of €655 and he also ordered 20,000 A4 colour newsletters costing €540, giving a total of €1,195.

Like Ms Byrne, Mr Buttimer told the Irish Examiner that he availed of a facility which is open to elected members in order to communicate work he is doing.

“I take my role as a member of the Oireachtas seriously and inform members of the public on a variety of issues. We canvass, we do leaflets, we hold coffee mornings. I avail of the facility that is available to members in Leinster House.”

Asked to respond to the charge that senators do not have constituencies, he said: “We are public representatives and it is my duty to inform people of different issues that pertain to them where ever they are from. I just happen to be from Cork South Central.”

Other big Fine Gael users of the service included Neale Richmond, who is seeking a seat in Dublin Rathdown. He ordered 30,000 A4 colour newsletters at a cost of €749.

Clare-based senator Martin Conway, who sought selection to contest the general election, ordered 30,000 newsletters at a cost of €398, according to the figures.

Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee, who is seeking a seat in Dublin Fingal, ordered 25,300 newsletters. She echoed the comments of her colleagues, saying that keeping the public informed is an important job of any public representative.



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