AENGUS O Snodaigh’s extraordinary claims that he used €50,000 worth of ink cartridges for Sinn Fein constituency purposes lie in tatters today.
The Herald can reveal the true scale of the ‘inkgate’ scandal with new documents casting major doubt over the TD’s claims he did "nothing wrong".
We can reveal that Mr O Snodaigh hadn’t nearly enough neccessary supplies to print the three million pages that the €50,000 worth of ink he claimed for, at public expense.
The amount of ink he claimed for would have equated to an incredible three million pages -- a figure equal to what seven TDs had claimed.
The declared printing activity was so large, the politician could have sent almost 340 letters to each of the 4,825 people who gave him their number one vote.
However documents released to the Herald under the Freedom of Information Act cast major doubt over the Sinn Fein man's claim that the money was used to print three million leaflets.
The documents reveal that Mr O Snodaigh did not obtain even a fraction of the necessary printing supplies to be able to use all the ink.
We can reveal that Mr O Snodaigh made just 13 maintenance requests in relation to his three printers -- some of which just required him turning off the machine.
To print three million leaflets, Mr O Snodaigh would have needed dozens of new parts, such as printing drums.
The Herald has learned that the Dell 5110 series printer in his offices must be equipped with a new printing drum after every 35,000 pages printed.
For the TD to print the three million pages, as claimed, he would need to replace the drum dozens of times.
However, Mr O Snodaigh only had his printing drum replaced on one occasion, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Printing experts today cast major doubt that three million pages could be printed over a two-year period, adding that a more realistic figure is significantly below 500,000 pages.
"There's no way three million pages could be printed over a three-year period unless the printers were running non-stop -- that's simply not believable," one expert told us.
Sources in Mr O Snodaigh's own party have already cast serious doubt on his claim that all 412 cartridges were used for constituency purposes.
Our revelation will pile major pressure on the embattled TD, whose reputation has been severely damaged by the 'inkgate' scandal.
It comes just days after Sinn Fein's MLA colleagues in Northern Ireland were also found to be overly fond of the ink.
In February it was revealed that Mr O Snodaigh got an incredible 488 print cartridges from Dail supplies -- worth an average of €130 each.
The total bill to the taxpayer was €50,000 -- with the TD so far refusing to pay the extraordinary amount. He did, however, repay his outstanding bill, incurred after a limit was imposed by the Oireachtas.
Leinster House bosses were so alarmed by his spending habits that they changed the rules in 2009 and imposed a limit on the free ink allowance.
However, Mr O Snodaigh continued to squander taxpayers' funds and again spent more than any other TD.
Asked about the staggering bill at the time, he said the entire three million pages were used to print material for his constituents.
"Hindsight's 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 in that scale," Mr O Snodaigh said.
"I think the constituents were grateful of the information that was given. Nobody ever raised with me, in Leinster House, the cost of it or that it was excessive, or anything else."
He maintained to the Herald that he did nothing "wrong" adding that he often printed leaflets with "lots of colour and big pictures".
Both Mr O Snodaigh and Sinn Fein didn't answer emails and calls by the Herald.