Laois/Offaly Labour Senator John Whelan has reiterated his call for the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin, to ban the practice of politicians dipping into the public purse to pay for their personalised Christmas cards.
Last year alone, the printing and posting of thousands of cards from politicians of all persuasions, including ten Ministers, cost the taxpayer in the region of €150,000.
When Senator Whelan proposed curbing this facility for politicians he was likened to a Scrooge by long-serving Fianna Fáil Senator, Terry Leydon, who admonished Senator Whelan for his suggestion, saying he would not be intimidated and pledged to dispatch his usual batch of Christmas cards to constituents.
However, Senator Whelan insists that the privilege of having ‘free’ printing and postage is being abused when it is used for the purpose of Christmas cards.
He commented, “It’s thoughtless rather than thoughtful and displays no goodwill or solidarity with hard pressed households at this time of the year.
“There is nothing Dickensian about what I am saying, but for many families we are living in the worst of times rather than the best of times. I earnestly believe that we are adding insult to injury by sending out these indulgent personalised cards paid for out of the public purse. It’s pointless and people see through it as it harks back to a bygone era. If we are talking reform, then we should show some cop on and common sense and lead by example. I don’t know anyone who prizes receiving a Christmas card from their local politician which they have forked-out for themselves. It’s sort of like pick-pocketing someone and then offering to buy them a drink.
“Like all other politicians this week, I received promotional material from charities like the Jack&Jill Foundation appealing for us to support their charity Christmas cards. I just felt we would be far better off supporting them, or other hard pressed worthy charities instead of sticking the bill for Christmas cards on the taxpayers tab.
“Last year, 132 TDs and Senators, out of a total of 226 Oireachtas members, sent out 217,020 Christmas cards at the taxpayers’ expense.
“At a time of such austerity and cutbacks it is vulgar to abuse our printing and postage facility for the purpose of sending out customised Christmas cards. This facility was designed to help TDs and Senators represent, inform and work on behalf of constituents and not to stick them with the bill for personalised Christmas cards which are little more than a vain indulgence and a costly perk, squandering public money.”