Leinster House’s multimillion-euro renovations to run up to 20% over budget

OPW chairman stresses increases not comparable to children’s hospital overruns

Leinster House: the cost of the renovation project is currently running 11 per cent over its €14.8 million budget. File photograph: Alan Betson

Leinster House: the cost of the renovation project is currently running 11 per cent over its €14.8 million budget. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

The major multi-million euro project to renovate Leinster House is on course to run up to 20 per cent over budget, according to internal Office of Public Works (OPW) emails.

The cost of the project is currently running 11 per cent over its €14.8 million budget, “with a couple of final significant structural issues still to be resolved”, according to an internal email from OPW chairman Maurice Buckley.

It is understood the final cost of the renovations could reach as high as €18 million.

Leinster House, an 18th-century building dating back to 1745, houses the Dáil and the Seanad.

The cost increases of the refurbishment will likely raise further questions over the Government’s management of public projects, following controversial cost increases in the national children’s hospital (NCH), and rural broadband plan.

Mr Buckley noted that officials from the OPW, which manages public buildings, estimated in February that the Leinster House project “will come in within about 20 per cent over original budget”.

He stressed in an internal email to other senior staff that “this is not a cost increase comparable in any way to the NCH”.

Unforeseen issues

The overrun related to “a necessary extension of the scope of work involved at rates agreed from the outset which have not increased,” he said.

The internal emails, alongside confidential briefing notes on the increases, were released to The Irish Times following a Freedom of Information Act request.

In February, costs had run over budget to €16.6 million, with an expectation of potential further increases.

As renovations began, significant unforeseen structural issues with the building were identified, which required extensive repair work, according to an OPW briefing note. The project is running several months behind schedule due to the extra works.

Despite the overruns, the note said that “when compared to relevant international comparators, this project offers excellent value for money”.

OPW officials hope the building will be ready for occupation and fully furnished for the autumn Oireachtas term.

The main contractor is construction firm Duggan Brothers Ltd. Construction work started in December 2017, and was initially due to take one year.

Unforeseen problems included structurally unstable chimney flutes, roof defects, lack of fire proofing of floors, significant damage to timber roof frames, and cracking in internal walls. Other works included clearing and replacing asbestos-contaminated material found in the building.

Controversy

In the February briefing, officials stated the renovation “is coming to the end of revealing hidden building elements”.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Buckley said: “Of course you’d like to bring it in on time and on budget. But given the unforeseen circumstances, the project stands up as a success.”

To allow the works, the Seanad was temporarily relocated to the National Museum of Ireland, which caused controversy at the time due to objections from museum staff.

During the works, a number of historical artefacts were uncovered, including a page from Faulkner’s Journal dated to 1750, a photo negative of a couple in 1920s-style dress, and a notice for a charity sermon from 1791.