The Oireachtas printer: how installation costs hit the ceiling

Timeline: By the time OPW saw a problem with the printer’s size, it was already too late

When a senior architect at the Office of Public Works overseeing the installation of an €808,000 printer in the Oireachtas noticed the problem with its size, it was already too late to apply the brakes.

The full cost for building works needed to fit the printer inside Kildare House runs to nearly €400,000, almost double the original €236,000 estimated after the measurements mistake forced significant alterations.

May 30th, 2018: Siobhan Malone, facilities manager at the Houses of the Oireachtas, emailed senior Office of Public Works architects Hilary Vandenberghe and Brendan Dillon.

The dimensions of the machine have been provided: 2130mm high and 1960mm wide, with need for 250mm clearance. Minor works including the temporary removal of doors would be needed.

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May 31st, 2018: Final contract is signed with Komori.

August 9th, 2018: Ms Vandenberghe emails Richie Roe, the Oireachtas printing manager, and other Oireachtas staff, and again on August 10th, to confirm measurements.

August 14th, 2018: Ms Vandenberghe notices that the printer is too tall. She emails Mr Roe and Alan Ruane, deputy head usher /office keeper at the Houses of the Oireachtas.

“I note that the 3160mm head height for operating the machine would not be achievable without significant structural works and mechanical works to the services floor overhead,” she says. It is, she writes, “a matter of urgency.”

August 16th, 2018: Ms Vandenberghe emails "a critical note" to Oireachtas staff . Delivery on September 1st cannot be met because of the height problems.

The delivery of the printer could be delayed; it could be stored elsewhere while works went on, or works could take place around it. The old printer could be brought back into use, she suggested.

The positioning of structural steel supporting the floor above is a major issue, since it cannot easily be removed without “substantial” changes. Supports would be needed for the floors above.

Officials discuss housing the printer in Print Room 2.

August 28th, 2018: Ms Vandenberghe emails Mr Roe to say that "definitive"information is needed. "This is specialist-designed equipment and we do not have the competency to make assumptions on this," she says.

September 4th, 2018: In an email Garret Nolan, HEO at the OPW, asks Ms Vandenberghe and others if a "smaller machine" could be procured.

December 12th, 2018: The Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan is briefed by Derek Dignam – the only direct correspondence sent to him.

“It became apparent in September that some structural works would need to be undertaken to ensure that new newer press could be accommodated . . . In the end these works transpired to be more significant than was initially realised. This work is now proceeding . . . and is expected to be completed early next year.

January 8th, 2019: Mr Roe e-mails Komori and Ms Vandenberghe: "There's a lot of internal pressure to get the project finished so hopefully the floor will be up for the job and we can get moving shortly."

March 14th, 2019: In a handover document to Ciaran Smith, Derek Dignam writes:

“The new press which we bought last year and paid for with 2018 funds. It is currently in storage awaiting commissioning. The print facility ceiling is not as high as required and this is being addressed by OPW. Whatever they are this is a 12-year investment or longer for both the press and the ceiling work.”

July 8th, 2019: Ms Malone outlines the envisaged building costs will be €236,000.