Inkgate: Aengus O’Snodaigh Responds (The Transcript)

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Aengus O’Snodaigh (image via Allan Cavanagh) went on RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland earlier to defend his impressive ink cartridge expenses.

Rachael English: “Enough ink to send 3.25 million letters, that’s what today’s Daily Mail reckons the Sinn Féin TD Aengus O Snodaigh received from Leinster house over two years. The paper’s political editor Senan Moloney has uncovered figures which show that in 2007 he received 215 print cartridges worth almost €26,000. The following year he got 219 cartridges. They were valued at €24,700.  In 2009 there was a clampdown on the number of print toner kits that a TD could take. The Sinn Féin TD still managed to use more than anybody else. Aengus O’Snodaigh is on the line. Good morning.”

O’Snodaigh: “Good morning.”

English: “What were you doing with all that ink?”

O’Snodaigh: “Quite a lot of printing, obviously. It was used for constituency purposes, leaflets locally to inform people of changes happening in their area and also to make them aware, so I had sent Senan [Irish Daily Mail] some of the samples yesterday when he raised this with me but he hasn’t published them, maybe in the future. For instance you’d have leaflets advertising protests against the proposed closure of the Crumlin Children’s Hospital, leaflets making people aware of different activities in the area, but also making them aware of their rights and entitlements or, for instance planning changes where substantial changes were planned in 2007/2008 in the area and you have to print pictures so that people can capture the size and the scale if there’s developments happening in Bluebell.”

English: “But you could have printed hundreds of thousands of leaflets with all that ink. Did you?”

O’Snodaigh: “Oh no we did. We would have been known as the most prolific leafleters in the country within the party and the party has a history of making sure that constituents around the country are informed. We would have had tens of thousands being delivered weekly at different stages in those years, and we still have to this day. The changes that we would photocopy now or get them printed in Leinster House in the printing press.”

English: “OK, but just to put this into context for people, in 2007 you used 215 cartridges, the next highest user, Fianna Fáil’s Michael Moynihan took 48 so do you accept that you were overdoing it?”

O’Snodaigh: “Oh, hindsight is 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 by our members. I think that the constituents were grateful of the information that they were given. Nobody ever raised with me, in Leinster House, the cost of it or that it was excessive or anything else.”

English: “And yet in 2009 there was a clampdown and your activities seem to have prompted that clampdown.”

O’Snodaigh: Well, not my activities. Nobody ever contacted me from Leinster House, the staff or anybody else. There was a review of all the expenditure of the House in 2009/2010 and since to try and make savings and I have no problem, I’ve played my part in those savings as I have. We changed…

English: Do you accept that what you did was wrong? That you took too many printer cartridges? I mean €50,000 over the space of two years.

O’Snodaigh: “Well, no, all I did was supply information to the constituents. At the time we were a small party in Leinster House so the turnaround in the printing presses in Leinster House meant that material that had to get out to constituents on a quicker basis wasn’t happening that way, and we were given an industrial photocopier, with full colour, to change from a small printer that we had and that was given to everybody.

English: “So you don’t think that you did anything wrong here?”

O’Snodaigh: “No I don’t think so and I have complied as much as I can with the new guidelines and anything above that, we have to pay for anyway.”

English: “At the very least though, doesn’t this show a disregard for the country’s citizens who are paying for all of this?”

O’Snodaigh: “Well, I don’t believe so. I could have found an alternative way and we have since. We could have concentrated more on black and white photocopied material which we have done since. We would suggest that that the printers that we have from Leinster House that go with our computers, that they aren’t suitable for the type of work that they had intended for them. They had given us industrial printers specifically to produce large quantities.”

English: “You have made that point. I suppose there will be a number of suspicions here that people will have. First of all, were you giving these printing cartridges to the party?”

O’Snodaigh: “No I didn’t. All of the printing cartridges that I got I used in my constituency office and I used them for constituency material, and anyone who lives in the constituency would be aware of getting leaflets on a continuous basis from before those dates and after that date.”

English: “If you didn’t give them to the party, were you printing election literature?”

O’Snodaigh: “No, that is totally barred from use. You cannot use it for election literature at all, and in fact the stationary stores in Leinster House closes for the duration of any election. You have to produce your own material. And election material you’d produce in large quantities. You’d go to a printer, as in you’d be getting 100,000 of the same piece of literature on a canvas card or the like.”

English: “Ok, so you didn’t do that. You do also owe the Houses of the Oireachtas €3,700 for printer cartridges. This is a sum that was racked up since those restrictions came in in 2009. Will you be paying up?”

O’Snodaigh: “Oh yeah, there’s no problem at all. I just haven’t got around to it. Initially there was confusion over the bill and I’ve sorted that out. There’s no problem at all.”

English: “OK, because I gather from the piece in the paper this morning they have had to write to you three times over the money.”

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O’Snodaigh: “There’s a statement every year, I have contacted them in past and said there is no problem at all. It’s due, it will be paid, there is no problem at all.”

English: “Do you accept that all of this seems very much at odds with the image which Sinn Féin likes to put forward? The party who doesn’t take the full salary, who doesn’t cost the taxpayer as much as other TDs. This seems like gravy train stuff.”

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O’Snodaigh: “This isn’t for my personal use, this is to provide a service to the constituents. Sinn Féin is well known for its hard work in keeping constituents informed right across the country and that’s what was being done right across the country. I make no apologies for keeping the constituents informed at the highest level possible. Since 2007/2008 the use of Facebook, the Twitter has allowed us to keep a lot of people informed a lot quicker than we would have before but we are still producing quite a vast quantity of leaflets.”
English: “But not the hundreds of thousands that seem to have been printed in the past?”

O’Snodaigh: “We are, I know that last week, last month there were 15,000 leaflets photocopied to do with the changeover from Dublin City Council to Greyhound.”

English: “OK, but there were fewer printer cartridges involved. Aengus O Snodaigh thank you for taking our call this morning.”

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