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Tanaiste's brother earns €15,000 in TD phone sales

A company run by a brother of the Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan, is making about €15,000 a year on the sale of mobile telephones to TDs and senators who are then reimbursed by the taxpayer.

Yesterday, Kevin Coughlan of Millennium Communications Cellular told the Sunday Independent that his business -- with around 20 Oireachtas members -- formed a "very small part" of his €1m annual turnover.

Oireachtas members can receive up to €750 every 18 months towards the cost of purchasing mobile phones, car kits and insurance under a scheme that was instigated in 2002.

Records released last week show that several Fianna Fail TDs and senators purchase telephony from Millennium Communications Cellular, a company incorporated in 1999, which is based in Kilmainham, Dublin.

Millennium Communications has two listed directors, Kevin Coughlan and his wife Josephine of Ballindoolin, Edenderry, Co Offaly. Mr Coughlan is a brother of the Tanaiste and Education Minister, Mary Coughlan.

Mr Coughlan said: "I've been in a telephone business since 1993. As a member of a political family -- my father and uncle were TDs before Mary -- I suppose you could say I have been going in and out of Leinster House for a long time.

"In that time, I would have gotten to know a good few TDs and senators. You build up a relationship with them, and they do business with me. It's as simple as that really. Ballpark, I would do business with about 20 of them at the moment."

Mr Coughlan's company would routinely provide an Oireachtas member with a receipt confirming purchase, which is submitted by the TD or senator to get reimbursed from the Exchequer.

The company posted accounts in 2009 showing it had almost €260,000 in cash at bank and in hand. It had current assets of over €480,000 and debts of almost €80,000.

There was some confusion yesterday as to whether a list of recommended mobile telephone suppliers is given to Oireachtas members. But Mr Coughlan said, as far as he was aware, his company was not on such a list nor did he apply to be.

Most TDs simply purchase the telephone equipment they require and submit a receipt for reimbursement. There is no requirement to purchase telephone equipment from a specific supplier.

Yesterday, government and Oireachtas sources were anxious that it be made known that any dealing between Millennium Communications and TDs and senators be regarded as a standard business arrangement.

When she was Minister for Agriculture, Ms Coughlan, when she attended a conference to showcase new technologies, posed for a photograph with her brother and also with Dick Roche, the current Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs under a banner for Millennium Communications.

The photograph was used to illustrate a wholesale agreement between Motormobile, which describes itself as a leading supplier of high-end business mobile communications solutions, and O2.

Sunday Independent