Tribunal building to get €3m revamp for EU presidency

Fri, Apr 6, 2012, 01:00

FOR ALMOST a decade, it was home to a daily theatre of lies, rows and other evidence, but from next year the hangar-like room in which the planning tribunal took place in Dublin Castle will become a conference centre.

The Office of Public Works is spending €3 million on kitting out the Printworks building, which will be the centre of activity for Ireland’s presidency of the EU in the first half of 2013.

The revamp is part of a cost-cutting plan to centralise activities for the presidency in one location in Dublin. The Government has budgeted €60 million for its six-month stint leading Europe, compared to the €92 million spent the last time we held the presidency in 2004. This is despite the fact that EU membership has since increased from 17 countries to 27.

The tribunal itself is moving office next week, from the castle’s Upper Yard to smaller offices at the Ship Street end of the complex. Although the inquiry issued its final report last month, the three judges of the Mahon tribunal, along with staff, will adjudicate on legal costs for some time.

Minister of State at the OPW Brian Hayes said the modernisation of the Printworks would have a long-term effect because it could be used for cultural or social purposes after the EU presidency.

“It’s a bit of an eyesore as it is, but with these plans we’ll have everything we need for next year under one roof and the State will have an asset for years to come.”

The hall was last used to announce the results of the presidential election last November and before that it hosted the international press for the visits of US president Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth a year ago.

In its tribunal heyday, hundreds of members of the public filled the seats to witness Tom Gilmartin and James Gogarty blow the whistle on corruption and Frank Dunlop confess to his involvement in it. Virtually every minister in the last government came through the drab white doors to the hall, many running the gauntlet of public hostility on their way to and from the witness box. This route will now be used as a service entrance to the hall.

Construction is expected to start in July and end in December.