Call for probe into €50k ink cartridge bill affair

A top-level probe into how a Sinn Féin TD managed to leave taxpayers with a €50,000 bill for ink cartridges in two years was demanded last night.

Dublin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh claimed the Leinster House supplies — enough to produce more than 3.2 million pages — were used legitimately, but even his party’s deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, described the cost as “excessive”.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin demanded a probe into the affair, insisting the public had a right to know how so many printer cartridges were used and what they was used for.

“It needs to be investigated, there is no doubt this is an extraordinary amount,” said Mr Martin.

The Fianna Fáil leader said the Oireachtas Commission should carry out the inquiry.

Ms McDonald denied the laser cartridges had been shared by the rest of the party against Oireachtas rules.

“I think by any standards €50,000 is excessive for that purpose,” she said, but made it clear the party would not reimburse the taxpayer.

Ms McDonald claimed her party colleague had been “let down by the system” as nobody had “tapped him on the shoulder” to warn him of the costs involved.

Mr Ó Snodaigh was forced to deny accusations he was a “freeloader” and hypocrite because of Sinn Féin’s tough stance on waste of taxpayers’ money by the Government after it emerged he took 215 cartridges worth €130 each in 2007 and another 219 the following year.

Printer cartridges were available free of charge to TDs and senators up until 2009 when restrictions were put on their use.

Mr Ó Snodaigh defended the scale of his ink use, saying that he “would have been known as the most prolific leafleters in the country, within the party”.

“Hindsight’s a great thing — it looks excessive, but the amount of material I was printing was at that scale, and it was being delivered door to door in that scale,” Mr Ó Snodaigh told RTÉ.

“I think the constituents were grateful of the information that was given. Nobody ever raised with me, in Leinster House, the cost of it or that it was excessive, or anything else.”

He also claimed the cartridges were not used for electioneering — which would have constituted a breach of regulation under Dáil rules.

The TD admitted he still owed Dáil authorities €3,700 for charges associated with printer cartridges since 2009.

Ms McDonald said she did not see the point of an investigation.

Mr Ó Snodaigh’s use of cartridges was well above the norm as the next highest amount taken by a TD in a year was 48 cartridges.

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