OPW mulled range of alternative temporary venues for Seanad
Convention centre, TCD and RDS among options considered for renovation period
The OPW considered moving the Seanad to, among other venues, Convention Centre Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
The Office of Public Works (OPW) contemplated moving the Seanad to the Mansion House, Trinity College and the RDS before opting to go next door to the National Museum, it has emerged.
Meanwhile, Convention Centre Dublin, the Dáil chamber in Leinster House when TDs are not sitting, and even the Dáil Members’ restaurant were also considered.
The long list of other locations contemplated are listed in an “internal options”, including Castletown House in Celbridge, Co. Kildare, which was built in the 18th century for the then speaker of the Irish House of Commons.
The Georgian structure of Leinster House is thought to be in urgent need of renovation, while the OPW believes part of the building constitutes a potential fire risk.
During the renovation, Seanad Éireann will meet in some rooms of the adjacent National Museum, until at least the end of 2018 – though the proposal has been sharply criticised in some quarters.
The largest of the Oireachtas’s committee rooms, committee room number one, was considered, but the Dáil’s business committee ruled this out, arguing that committee rooms are constantly in use, with “uninterrupted use” required.
Other premises deemed unsuitable were George’s Hall in Dublin Castle. a wing of the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, and other cultural institutions, including the National Library.
The cost of leasing “exhibition/function space commercially available within a reasonable distance of Leinster House” was deemed “very high” and that option was, therefore, eliminated.
Before Christmas, the Ceann Comhairle, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, said there was no guarantee that the Seanad’s renovation works would be completed by December 2018, adding that the National Museum rooms may be occupied beyond then.
Speaking then, the chair of the National Museum, Catherine Heaney, said the Government had already decided to use part of the museum before she had had the chance to raise the move with her own board.
It is understood that the National Museum subsequently considered up to a dozen arrangements proposed by the Oireachtas before signing off on a draft memorandum of understanding.
The 45-page Oireachtas options document lays out the criteria required for a temporary home for senators, including cost, the scale of work required to make a new venue suitable and its distance from Leinster House.
“The main cost factor for determination will be the electrical elements in providing the same services that are currently available,” the report notes, including broadcasting, electronic voting, bells, timers, etc. Parking was also a consideration.
The recent uncovering of an old doorway directly connecting Leinster House to the National Museum – which had been boarded up in the 1920s – makes the proposed relocation easier.