Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - College of Science Complex Refurbishment.

Alan M. Dukes

Question:

3 Mr. Dukes asked the Taoiseach the total cost of his new suite of offices in the College of Science building, Merrion Street, Dublin 2.

The College of Science complex contains some of the most historic and important public buildings in Dublin city.

The college itself was completed in 1911. By 1922, when British rule had ended, the complex had been extended to Merrion Street to incorporate Government Buildings which became the seat of the Executive Council of the new State.

For many years subsequently the college housed the School of Engineering attached to University College, Dublin, while the surrounding buildings were used by Government Departments, including the Departments of the Taoiseach, Finance and Agriculture, and the Attorney General's Office.

When the Engineering School transferred to the Belfield campus, the Government decided to have the College of Science refurbished as part of their programme of restoring major public buildings such as Dublin Castle, the Custom House and the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham.

The entire series of interlinking buildings are of great national and historic importance and this project is the first major refurbishment of the complex since the foundation of the State. The work involves re-equipping the buildings to modern standards, in keeping with their role as the centre of Government. The Government decided also, as part of this scheme, to provide substantial additional accommodation for Members and staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas. In March of this year, following consideration of tenders from a number of contractors, the Office of Public Works placed a contract with McInerney Contracting Ltd., who put in the lowest bid, for the total refurbishment of the former college premises, including the engineering block building at the rear of the college.

The value of the contract is £13.2 million, excluding VAT and professional fees of which approximately £6.5 million will be paid out in wages. It would not be possible to isolate the exact cost of the Department of the Taoiseach's accommodation from the overall project costs. There will be some savings in rents and a significant portion of the total cost of the refurbishment work will be recouped through the sale of older Government properties in Merrion Street.

The Department of the Taoiseach will take possession of part of the refurbished building at the end of this year. They will have the same number of offices as before with the addition of some extra conference and press briefing rooms. As a consequence of that move, the Attorney General's Office will take over extra rooms in the north block of Government Buildings to accommodate additional legal staff currently being recruited.

The Department of Finance will be allocated most of the offices currently occupied by the Department of the Taoiseach in Government Buildings and will, in exchange, release other premises at present occupied by them mainly to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

As a consequence of the project, the Dáil will gain much-needed space in the refurbished engineering block building as well as more accommodation in Kildare House and accommodation at present occupied by them in Merrion Square — and by the Department of Finance in Upper Merrion Street — will also be released.

In summary, the project involves a major reorganisation and modernisation of the seat of Government and Dáil accommodation arrangements. The Houses of the Oireachtas, the Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance and the Attorney General's Office will all benefit from the project. In addition, the State will be in a position to release accommodation in other areas as a consequence of the refurbishment works.

That is a fascinating piece of history, but it does not answer the question. I would like to know the extra cost of moving the Taoiseach's office from its present location to the proposed new location and I would like to know how much less extra accommodation will be made available for the Houses of the Oireachtas than was provided for in the original plan.

I do not understand the latter part of the Deputy's question, but the net gain to the Houses of the Oireachtas will be 11,780 square feet and it will mean a major improvement in the accommodation of the Deputies and Senators. It is not possible to isolate the exact cost involved in the new accommodation for the Taoiseach's Department.

Would the Taoiseach not agree that if the Taoiseach's suite of offices were to remain where it is now and not occupy a proportion of that building under the central dome, there would then be more room available for the Houses of the Oireachtas and Deputies for the first time would have adequate working accommodation?

That is not so. In fact, this will bring about such an improvement that there will be room for either 35 or 40 new Members of the Oireachtas. That, and the other changes that have been made, will put the problem of accommodation for Deputies right for the first time ever.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Let us now come to deal with Question No. 4.

A Cheann Comhairle——

It must be a very brief question. I am anxious to make progress on other questions.

Why was it deemed necessary to move the Taoiseach's office from its present perfectly satisfactory location to the new one?

I see Deputy FitzGerald is anxious to get in, and maybe he could get in because I will be glad to deal with the question I know he will ask.

Question No. 4.

I was just waiting for the Taoiseach to answer.

The present accommodation of the Taoiseach's office is not satisfactory. I would describe it as a bit of a rabbit warren. It is very badly planned. It makes the reception by the Taoiseach of the day of important foreign visitors and distinguished visitors such as heads of State and heads of Government almost impossible.

Absolute nonsense.

It is a totally unsuitable building and there is totally unsuited accommodation for a Taoiseach's office. It is more a rabbit warren than an office.

I take offence to that.

Nonsense.

It is not nonsense. On another point, I would make clear that the provision of new accommodation for the Taoiseach's Office — I know this will come as a disappointment to some people in the House, but not to all — is not for my benefit. We are creating a proper seat of Government for the future. Some of you — I could not possibly identify which——

(Interruptions.)

You will not be asked.

——might in due time occupy and be grateful to me for providing proper accommodation for the Taoiseach.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach obviously has illusions of grandeur.

Question No. 4, please.

I would demur with the suggestion that the accommodation we had was inadequate; only someone with a sense of grandiosity would want to move from it, but that is by the way. Will the Taoiseach say what proportion of the additional space made available by the departure of the engineering faculty has been made available to the Houses? The Taoiseach will recall that plans I had prepared involved all the additional space going to the House which badly needs it. How much accommodation that would have come to the House under those plans has the House been deprived of by the Taoiseach's decision to use it for other purposes?

The House has not been deprived. It is gaining enormously. I did not think there would be any criticism of this. The whole engineering block at my personal insistence is being provided for accommodation for Oireachtas Members. There is perfectly good new accommodation for 35 to 40 Deputies and Senators.

That was all in train before you appeared on the scene.

(Interruptions.)

How much has the House been deprived of by this decision?

None. Go and meddle in the presidential election.

(Interruptions.)

I am calling the next question.

What proportion of the space has the House got and what proportion was taken by the Taoiseach?

(Interruptions.)

Question No. 4 has been called and must be responded to.

The Taoiseach has not responded to my supplementary.