Sudden death of Commissioner of Public Works

 

DAVID BYERS, the Commissioner of Public Works in charge of State property and projects, died suddenly on Saturday of a heart attack while visiting Wales.

Mr Byers, who was 55, had been an assistant principal architect in the Office of Public Works (OPW) prior to being appointed as one of its three commissioners in 2001. He was responsible for managing the State's portfolio of over 4,000 properties.

In the late 1980s, he worked with two other senior OPW architects, Klaus Unger and Angela Rolfe, on major public projects - the installation of a conference centre in the Dublin Castle and the renovation of Government Buildings in Merrion Street.

Subsequently, as manager of Dublin Castle, he became a familiar face meeting and greeting heads of state or government as they arrived in the upper castle yard for European summits, and was involved in developing the castle as a conference venue.

He later played a central role in developing Farmleigh House, after the Government acquired it from the Earl of Iveagh, and was also involved in preparing a conservation and management plan for the Phoenix Park - including the curtailment of through-traffic.

Mr Byers is credited by assistant principal architect with the OPW Angela Rolfe for the "singular achievement" of relocating the Phoenix Monument to its original position in the middle of Chesterfield Avenue, the main road through the park; it had been removed from this central position for traffic reasons.

In his private life, he was an avid motor racing enthusiast and served as a director of Mondello Park, in Co Kildare. He was also involved in organising motor racing in the Phoenix Park, although this did not blind him to the park's significance as a national legacy.

Mr Byers also oversaw the restoration of Oldbridge House, on the site of the Battle of the Boyne, and the creation of a visitor centre there for the official opening last May by former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former Northern Ireland first minister Ian Paisley.

Other major projects in which he was involved included the National Conference Centre at Spencer Dock in Dublin and plans for the redevelopment of Mountjoy Prison and the creation of a 1916 museum in the GPO in time for the centenary of the 1916 Rising. Mr Byers also gave evidence at last month's hearing in Dingle, Co Kerry, on controversial plans for a visitor centre on the Great Blasket Island, which the State is seeking to acquire for conservation.