Watchdog to probe misuse of Oireachtas envelopes

THE abuse of some of the 4.75 million postage-paid Oireachtas envelopes issued to TDs and senators every year is set to be probed by a parliamentary watchdog.

The demands for an investigation by a Dáil committee follows the admission by a Fianna Fáil councillor that he forged a letter from the Taoiseach endorsing his candidacy and sent it out to voters ahead of the local elections using several thousand Oireachtas envelopes.

Each of the 166 TDs and 60 senators gets a postal allocation of 1,750 prepaid Oireachtas envelopes a month, adding up to a total of 21,000 envelopes each a year.

Former Junior Minister Lorcan Allen apologised yesterday for the distribution of the bogus letter, purporting to come from the Taoiseach, urging voters to support him ahead of his running mate in the local elections and committed to repaying the cost of the Oireachtas envelopes used.

Fianna Fáil’s internal party investigation into the matter is supposed to inform TDs and senators about the use of Oireachtas envelopes but is unlikely to establish who gave Mr Allen the Oireachtas envelopes he used in the affair.

But Green Party leader Trevor Sargent says this incident and other cases of abuse of Oireachtas envelopes during the election campaign must be investigated by the Committee on Members’ Interests of Dáil Éireann, of which he is a member.

Mr Sargent says he has raised the matter already with the committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Noel Davern, and the committee warned TD and senators before the elections about the use of Oireachtas envelopes.

“I understand there have been a number of complaints of Oireachtas envelopes being used by candidates to put out their leaflets. That is a breach of the guidelines. I am looking for this to be an item on the agenda of the next meeting,” he said.

Oireachtas envelopes cost the taxpayers well over €2 million a year.

The penalty for misusing Oireachtas envelopes is for the allocation to be denied to the TD or senator concerned.

The victim of the bogus letter campaign, FF local election candidate Pat Rath, said he was amazed the party accepted the apology from Mr Allen and that it had missed a chance to show Fianna Fáil stood for moral rectitude.

Despite denying any involvement in the affair, Mr Allen yesterday took full responsibility for the letter.

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