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Saturday 16 December 2017

Gift-giving senators play Santa

Pens, DVDs, chocolates sent to councillors -- and taxpayer covers postage

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

SENATORS have been playing Santa by sending gifts to the councillors who elect them.

Presents posted out include free parking permits for GAA matches, pens, DVDs, chocolates and even men's ties.

But there is a real purpose to this largesse from senators -- to keep the city and county councillors happy because 43 out of the 50 elected to the Seanad depend on their votes.

But only a small number of senators play Santa -- those who can afford to. The rest are like Hans Christian Andersen's little matchstick girl -- reduced to providing more humble wares to their market.

The most famous present givers include Senator Mark Daly, who sent 300 copies of the Ken Loach civil war film 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' to all Fianna Fail councillors in the run-up to the 2007 general election.

The estimated cost was around €4,500 -- but Mr Daly got into the Seanad at his first attempt and now commands a salary of around €65,000.

But even better known for his generosity is his Fianna Fail colleague, Senator Ned O'Sullivan, who owns 'The Man's Shop' in Listowel, Co Kerry. He sent a tie out to councillors. But he refused to tell a Sunday newspaper if he had used some of the 1,000 free Oireachtas envelopes he receives every month -- which are paid for by the taxpayer.

"I've no comment to make," he said.

Labour Senator Dominic Hannigan said he had no need to send out such gifts because his party always chooses its Seanad candidates before the election -- and then relies on Labour councillors to back them.

"As a result, the poor blighters get very little. They get a regular email from me and a Christmas card which I am sure they are delighted with," he said.


Mr Hannigan said that, as a councillor, he had received chocolates and pens from senators seeking his vote.

"I even got a tie from one of my councillor buddies because he hated it so much," he said.

Most of the senators bearing gifts are in Fianna Fail. FF Seanad Leader Donie Cassidy loyally sticks by the acts he used to manage in his showbiz days. He recently sent out the greatest hits CD of Foster and Allen.

FF Senator Francie O'Brien is well known for supplying pens to councillors. Party colleague Senator Labhras O'Murchu, who is also director of traditional music organisation Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann, sends every councillor a copy of its magazine 'Treoir'.

But it is the taxpayer who is paying for the cost of sending them -- in freepost Oireachtas envelopes.

Another Fianna Fail senator, John Hanafin, sent free parking vouchers last week to councillors in advance of the Cork versus Waterford Munster hurling final replay.

One Fine Gael senator, who did not wish to be named, said he only sent out letters giving updates on local government reforms. He added that there was only a small number of senators who sent out gifts -- and that most had substantial financial wealth to pay for it.

Irish Independent

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