THREE of the four main political parties have admitted to sourcing printing services from outside the Republic of Ireland. The acknowledgements come on foot of a debate over whether or not it is deemed 'unpatriotic' to shop outside of Ireland, and in particular, across the border.

Last week, the Labour party defended itself when it was revealed that it had opted to go to a company in the North to deliver its election posters for the 2009 local elections.

Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and the Greens have all admitted, to varying degrees, that they have gone outside of the Republic at times to source printed goods.

Responding to criticisms on the issue, the Labour party said it had been using the same company in Co Antrim for the last number of years and saw no issue in doing so.

Fianna Fáil, which came under fire following claims that finance minister Brian Lenihan had implied cross-border shopping trips from the Republic were unpatriotic, was the only party to completely dismiss using any foreign printing services for election posters or other material over the past five years.

In a statement last week, the party said: "Regarding print companies, Fianna Fáil has not used companies outside the Republic of Ireland."

Fine Gael says it has used printing companies in Europe, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Sinn Féin, an 'all Ireland' party, uses printers on both sides of the border, while the Green Party, also an 'all Ireland' organisation says it prints in both the south and across the border, but specifically in that case only because its candidate is sitting in the Northern Ireland constituency of the upcoming European elections.

It also admitted to sourcing some printed goods, such as mugs with the party logo, from the UK because they have better recycling