Cowen questioned on use of Farmleigh

Thu, Jan 29, 2009, 00:00

BRIAN COWEN said he had used the Steward’s House in Farmleigh, in Dublin’s Phoenix Park, “from time to time” since becoming Taoiseach.

“While I have not used it regularly, I have used it more frequently in the new year than was the case previously,” Mr Cowen added.

He was replying to Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who said that the 11 nights’ occupancy, over the period of almost three years since 2006, meant that good value for money did not appear to have been achieved heretofore.

“The deputy will not mind if I go home every now and again,” replied Mr Cowen.

The Victorian property was renovated, at a cost of nearly €600,000 by the Office of Public Works in 2005, as a possible taoiseach’s residence. It was fitted with a state of the art security system. The house is several hundred metres away from Farmleigh House.

Mr Cowen’s predecessor, Bertie Ahern, ruled out using it as a residence, even though he sanctioned the investment in the property. Gardaí had become increasingly uneasy about the difficulty of providing adequate security for the residences of taoisigh who were based outside Dublin but sometimes stayed overnight in the city.

Mr Cowen’s family home is in Tullamore, Co Offaly.

The house has two downstairs reception rooms, a small study and a kitchen and a conservatory, while there are four bedrooms upstairs, one of them en suite.

There is a security hut outside for gardaí and a landscaped garden which is closed off from the rest of the Farmleigh estate.