herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Dail gets €9m revamp

A staggering €9 million has been splashed out on facilities at Leinster House in recent years.

Expenditure of taxpayers’ money included tens of thousands handed over for Waterford Crystal, €1 million that went on a restaurant and €226,367 paid out for a coffee dock for hungry and thirsty TDs and Senators.

Perhaps the most shocking is the €1m lavished on the construction of a shop, called Siopa.

Another huge expense was the €300k for an e-voting maching for the Senate, which has only 60 members.

Figures

Figures released to the Herald through the Freedom of Information Act show that despite the recession, a massive paint job took place throughout the whole of Leinster House at a cost of €682,902.

At the height of the boom the Office of Public Works (OPW) signed off on the construction of a €1m restaurant, e-voting for the Seanad and for almost a quarter of a million on a coffee dock.

At the same time, parts of the historic building were found to have of structural defects.

Surveys revealed that in certain areas, most particularly on the second floor, the uses to which certain rooms were put exceeded load bearing capacity.

A Herald investigation has discovered that €9m was splashed on other items including:

- A security gate

- Two toilets

- Decking and bollards

- Waterford Crystal lighting

The Oireachtas also convinced the now financially strained Dublin City Council to spend €255,000 installing new paving outside the Kildare Street entrance in 2007.

Another €102,000 was forked out by the Oireachtas itself to improve the stone works at the same entrances "due to stone decay".

Records received by the Herald show that the Oireachtas frequently requests upgrades to facilities with taxpayers ultimately footing the bill.

Even as the Government was warning last summer of cuts to social welfare payments, close to €500,000 was provided for works at Leinster House.

Upgrading

These included the upgrading a basement, conservation of window lintels and the replacement of bollards around the Leinster House lawn.

Bizarrely, works on the infamous lawn -- which was replanted after 10 years as a car park -- cost just €39,000, even though politicians were told last August that it would be in the region of €250,000.

The one-off saving is unlikely to pacify voters who will be outraged by years of excess during the Celtic Tiger.

Even as the recession kicked in after the last general election in 2007, three separate decorators were brought in to complete a "full painting programme" to include the Dail Chamber and Ministerial Block.

The final bill for the paint job had reached €628,902 by the time the work was completed in 2008. When asked to explain the reasons for the works, the OPW said "renovations were required".

Prior to the painting, a whopping €70,000 was spent on an upgrade of the lighting system, but €61,869 of this was handed over to Waterford Crystal.

The Herald has previously reported how a "siopa" constructed in 2006 cost €1m, but the new receipts also show that the upgrading and extension of the building's self-service restaurant cost €1,186,445.

The expensive canteen keeps TDs and Senators well fed with a heavily subsidised menu. The restaurant also spends around €180-a-month on flowers.

Additional space was also cleared in 2007 to accommodate a coffee dock in a separate part of the building with a further bill of €226,000.

Huge resources have also been pumped into security measures in recent years.

Between 2004 and 2005, the Oireachtas asked the OPW to upgrade the security system which involved the installation of new gates at a price of €281,276.

A further €1,443,500 was invested in the destruction of the old security entrance and the construction of a new one.

The total figure supplied by the OPW for works between 2003 and 2009 is €8,752,504, but this excludes maintenance of equipment, plumbing and heating.

hnews@herald.ie

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