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Saturday 21 April 2018

Politicians forgo Christmas cards but frugal times fail to halt Callely

Patricia McDonagh and Conor Cullen

WITH an election next year and Christmas imminent, you might expect politicians to capitalise on the custom of sending festive cards to gain some longer-term goodwill.

But this year TDs and senators are dispensing with the age-old tradition of posting Christmas cards to constituents in taxpayer-funded Oireachtas envelopes.

Common sense, it seems, has prevailed as the country's financial reality hits home, with many top politicians deciding to end the ritual, and with the majority of others sending cards at their own expense.

But there are exceptions. And few will be surprised to learn that Ivor Callely is amongst them. Despite his controversial expense scandal, the senator is amongst those who have decided to send out festive greetings.

Entitled 'Christmas Joy', his card features a nativity scene and is emblazoned with a passage from the Bible.

And tucked inside is a pull-out 2011 calendar, which maintains Mr Callely has an "unwavering, energy and dedication, born of a true passion for the public service". It is understood that the card has been sent out in an Oireachtas envelope -- paid for by the taxpayer -- and Mr Callely's office last night refused to comment.

In contrast, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is amongst the leaders of the new wave of card austerity.

"He is not sending Christmas cards out generally this year. The economic circumstances have changed and people realise that," said a spokesman.

Donation

His opposition colleague, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, is making a donation to a charity for Motor Neurone Disease instead of sending a traditional card to constituents.

"He also didn't send out any cards last year. He would much rather give the money to charity," said a spokesman.

Fine Gael's Michael Ring -- who previously delighted constituents with witty cards -- is making a donation to the Westport St Vincent de Paul. "I always pay for my own cards, but it just isn't right to send one out this year," said Mr Ring.

For the second year running, Taoiseach Brian Cowen is not sending a card funded from his department's budget. He is joined by Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe, Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan and Defence Minister Tony Killeen.

Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin is one of those actually sending cards -- but she has dipped into her own pocket to cover the cost.

Social Protection Minister Eamon O Cuiv has paid for the production and postage of his Christmas card to ensure his constituents don't miss out on his festive wishes.

Senator Mary White also dipped into her own pocket to send a Christmas card and a bar of Bailey's chocolate made by Lir Chocolates -- the company she founded.

Sinn Fein's leader in the Dail, Caoimhghin O Caolain's card is emblazoned with the words 'Nollaig Shona' amid a winter scene backdrop.

His cards were printed at the taxpayers' expense some years back -- but they are being reused this year and will only be sent out to selected constituents.

Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith is also sending out a "small number" of cards to constituents -- as is former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Irish Independent

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