Séamus Healy, TD, on Climate Change:

Climate change is a real and distressing phenomenon which disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in our society. We only have to think of a country like the Philippines and, more recently, the Pacific island of Vanuatu, to see the utter devastation that climate change is wreaking on the most vulnerable people in the world who are already living in extreme poverty. Here at home, the Irish climate analysis and research unit has studied key meteorological changes in this country from 1890, when records began, to 2004 and the results do not bode well.

Séamus Healy, TD, acting on Climate Change:

TDs and senators used Oireachtas printing facilities to produce 271,250 personalised calendars and 34,450 bespoke Christmas cards, according to details released under the Freedom of Information Act.

More than a quarter of the calendars were ordered by Independent TD for Tipperary Séamus Healy, who used the free printing facility to produce 70,000 of the items in 2018.

Niall Collins and Timmy Dooley, the Fianna Fáil TDs who were sacked from the party’s frontbench over the recent Dáil voting controversy, each ordered 50,000 calendars in 2018.

It’s hard to be precise about the number of trees required to produce 70,000 calendars, because we don’t know what size the calendars, or the trees for that matter, were. But the best estimate from the Sierra Club is that one tree produces about 20,000 sheets. Assuming 12 sheets per calendar, the Deputy for Tipperary accounted, last Christmas, for 42 trees, all by himself. Let’s hope they were good calendars.

Of course, it’s hard to blame them, in a way, because of the way we do politics in Ireland. With an election due very shortly, you can expect requests for calendars and Christmas cards to rocket this year. Whether we like it or not, getting a personalised Christmas card from your local TD works. You will feel in their debt when you walk into that polling station, and even if you’re not delivering them your first preference, you’re going to feel in their debt when you pass their name. “Ah, he sent me a card at Christmas, I can’t let him down”.

In addition, campaigns are a monumentally expensive business. In a five seat constituency, the spending limit for candidates is in excess of €30,000 – and that’s just during the formal campaign. A good many will end up spending closer to twice that between now and the election. If you can cut costs by pushing some of it onto the taxpayer in the form of calendars or Christmas cards, you’re going to do it. It’s one of the real advantages of being a sitting TD as the election approaches.

And what can we do about it? You can’t ban TDs from communicating with their constituents, otherwise we’d all get very annoyed. “I haven’t heard from him in five years” you’d say, shortly before voting him out.

In all fairness, though, there’s no particularly good reason to provide printing for promotional materials. A letter about a local issue is one thing, but Christmas Cards and Calendars are quite another.

Besides, how many houses do you walk into and see the local TD’s calendar hanging on the wall? Most of these things end up in the bin. The poor trees have died in vain. It’s a good job Deputy Healy is fighting for the climate.