Plan to buy iPads for TDs is criticised

Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 00:00

PLANS TO provide TDs and Senators with free tablet devices have been sharply criticised in a strongly worded letter to the Ceann Comhairle by the only deputy who does not claim expenses.

Labour’s Eamonn Maloney told Seán Barrett that colleagues who wanted a state-of-the-art touchscreen computer should buy one for themselves rather than accept a product paid for with public money.

“I wish to propose that the purchase of tablet devices and associated management solutions be cancelled with immediate effect in order to save the taxpayer considerable expense,” Mr Maloney said.

“I have three computers in my office and I do not require any further devices. I will not be availing of the provision of a tablet device. I suggest that any member of the Oireachtas who requires a tablet would buy their own.”

An Oireachtas spokeswoman said a tender to supply the devices was expected to be awarded by the end of next month. The Houses of the Oireachtas Commission decided in the summer to buy tablets for all 166 TDs, 60 Senators and some staff.

Mr Maloney last week appealed to Mr Barrett, as chairman of the commission, to reconsider the plan. He said he had also made his views known to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin.

When TDs’ expenses were published in February, it emerged that Mr Maloney, who lives in Tallaght in his Dublin South-West constituency, had declined to accept any allowances. A Labour Party spokesman explained at that time that Mr Maloney’s view was that since he lived in Dublin and did not have a constituency office he did not need expenses.

When the original tender to supply tablets was withdrawn earlier this month, Fine Gael TD John Paul Phelan said common sense had prevailed.

Mr Phelan said all Oireachtas members had access to a computer and a mobile phone and did not need additional technology.

“I simply could not understand the logic behind spending over €100,000 on new technology, when hundreds of thousands of people up and down the country are living on the breadline,” he said.

However, the tender was withdrawn only because of a change in procurement rules introduced by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. A new tender has gone out under the updated framework.

The Oireachtas Commission has previously said the purchasing of the devices was part of a larger project aimed at reducing the annual cost of parliamentary printing. It is hoped the purchase of tablets will be recouped through savings in printing costs over three years.

The Apple iPad, one such tablet device, can retail at between €479 and €799, depending on capacity. The recently unveiled iPad Mini costs from $329 (€275).

The devices will remain Oireachtas property and will have to be handed back by those who lose their seats in the Dáil or Seanad.

Being up to speed with technology is no guarantee of political success.

Former Green leader John Gormley, who lost his seat at the last general election along with all his party colleagues, was believed to be the first TD to use an iPad in Leinster House.

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