Did you get a Christmas card from your local TD?
In a change of form, TDs tended not to send to send Christmas cards to media personnel last year. One of the perks Oireachtas members enjoy is the ability to avail of an “in-house” printing service allowing them to produce individualised cards they can send to constituents and others.
In January, the Oireachtas told us it spent more than €9,600 on around 200,000 customised Christmas cards that were distributed by TDs and Senators to constituents and friends ahead of the festive season. That figure did not include the cost of pre-paid Oireachtas envelopes, which Oireachtas members are entitled to use. It seemed like a small story, but a surprising number of people contacted me to express their outrage. The general tone of their emails and letters was: “Let them buy their own Christmas cards like everyone else!”
I had to put in a Freedom of Information request (standard €15 fee) to establish which TDs and Senators availed of the perk. It turned out ten Ministers were among the 100 Oireachtas members out of the full 226 who did so. By way of an example have a look at Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan’s Christmas card.
However, in order to release the actual images a fee of €62.85 was sought. This amount was calculated on the basis of three hours of staff time, at €20.95 an hour, to locate and draw together the records (ie put the PDFs on two discs). I thought it was a lot of money, was worried about what readers would think, and sought permission before going ahead with that part of the request.
Anyway, we went ahead with it and you can see some of the weird and wonderful results in our online gallery http://bit.ly/wH03K9
Please let me know if you got a Christmas card from your local TD and, as a certain Mr Duffy would say, “how did it make you feel?”