herald

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Taxpayers fork out €40m for Farmleigh

Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Mark Condren
Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park. Photo: Mark Condren

It has cost the taxpayer over €40m between 2001 and 2012 to finance the operation of State residence Farmleigh House in the Phoenix Park.

According to figures provided by the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure Brian Hayes, only eight heads of state have stayed at Farmleigh in the past four-and- a-half years and the operating costs of Farmleigh during that period have totalled over €11m.

In the past 18 months to the end of June, Mr Hayes confirmed that only two heads of state or prime ministers, King Letsie III of Lesotho and the prime minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, have stayed there.

Dropped

King Letsie was the only Head of State to stay at Farmleigh in 2012 – former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak stayed at the residence in 2006.

The figures show that the numbers staying at Farmleigh by overseas dignitaries has dropped off significantly since 2008.

According to Mr Hayes, there have been 40 stays by heads of state and dignitaries since 2001.

The figures provided by Mr Hayes show that the numbers that stayed at the residence in 2011 was three; one in 2010; two in 2009; five in 2008, five in 2007; six in 2006; five in 2005; two in 2004 and nine between 2001 and 2003.

Heads of state to have stayed at Farmleigh include Britain's Queen Elizabeth, Prince Albert of Monaco and king of the Belgians, Harald.

The 78-acre Farmleigh estate was purchased by the State in 1999 at a cost of €29.2m from the Guinness family and the residence is used not only for VIPs' overnight stays, but is also open to the public .

Last year the number of public visitors increased to 375,064.

Separately, 2,297 people attended 39 high-level events at Farmleigh.

According to Mr Hayes, the capital works, operations and maintenance costs of Farmleigh totalled €38.75m between 2001 and 2012, with energy costs during the same period totalling €1.5m.

Charge

The costs associated with operating Farmleigh have declined sharply in recent years.

In the first year of opening in 2001, the cost of capital works, operations and maintenance totalled €5.92m and last year, the costs totalled €2.77m.

The initial high costs included the Office of Public Works (OPW) work of restoring the estate.

Some 34 full-time and six part-time staff work out of Farmleigh.

Deputy John Deasy said yesterday that "the annual costs of Farmleigh are hard to justify and I believe the time has come for the State to seek a nominal charge from the thousands of day visitors to the residence each year".

hnews@herald.ie

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