Asbestos removal and air purification among Irish embassy costs in 2016

Beijing embassy air purification system cost €20,000, figures from department reveal

Records show €20,000 was spent on an air purification system at the Irish Eembassy in Beijing, a city in which air pollution is a regular problem. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Records show €20,000 was spent on an air purification system at the Irish Eembassy in Beijing, a city in which air pollution is a regular problem. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

 

The State spent more than €600,000 on gardening and major maintenance works on its properties overseas last year, including €90,000 on asbestos removal at the Swiss embassy.

Among other substantial costs cited were a €20,000 bill for an air purification system at its embassy in Beijing and another €20,000 for carpets in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The details of expenditure are revealed in documents released by the Department of Foreign Affairs under the Freedom of Information Acts.

The Chinese capital has notoriously poor air quality, and a note on the renovations carried out in July last year explain that the purification system was needed “for the health and safety of staff”.

The following month €91,891 was spent on “removal of asbestos and the subsequent refurbishment of the restroom in the State-owned property in Bern” in Switzerland which is used for “promotional and public events”.

Promotional spaces

The spend on carpets in Kuala Lumpur was also associated with the upkeep of “promotional spaces” and official accommodation for consular officials.

Overall some €330,000 was dedicated to preening the grounds of embassies, consulates, accommodation and promotional spaces in 58 locations around the world last year.

The amounts spent varied from €19.62 at the Irish Embassy in Kampala, Uganda to €41,000 at the embassy building in Canberra, Australia.

In a briefing note explaining the unusually high outlay on ground works at the Australian premises the department noted that “particular local climatic challenges add to the costs of maintenance and reflect the market conditions”.

The two-acre Canberra site contains embassy offices and official accommodation for diplomats. It is located close to the Australian parliament but is modestly sized compared to the embassies of other countries nearby.

The next highest gardening spend was €32,200 at the Irish Embassy in Rome, which is situated on a sprawling estate on Gianicolo Hill overlooking the Italian capital.

The main building known as Villa Spada dates back to the 17th century when it was initially constructed as a holiday home for Italian nobility, and its extensive and immaculately-kept grounds once played host to a monumental battle between French and Italian forces wrestling for control of Rome in 1849.

An advertisement for the position of gardener at the embassy piqued the interest of The Irish Times in May this year due to the gargantuan list of requirements associated with maintaining the pristine lands.

These included: “grass-cutting, hedge-trimming, preparation and planting of flower/shrub beds, weeding, watering, feeding of plant beds, removal of old flowers/shrubs, pruning, weeding, application of weed killer, fertilising, soil and compost replacement, garden waste disposal, cleaning of pathways/terraces and maintenance of swimming pool”.

Explaining the outlay, the department said the State’s properties abroad “must project a positive and attractive image of Ireland”.