Just 48 hours after protesters attempted to block staff from leaving Leinster House, the Houses of the Oireachtas opened its doors to the public as part of Culture Night celebrations.
On Friday evening, more than 500 visitors to Leinster House were given tours of the building. Tickets were released free of charge to the public and all available slots were taken up. It was the 18th year that the Oireachtas took part in Culture Night.
Jamie Starrbourke, a law student from UCD, was among Friday’s visitors. He said that the protests on Wednesday did not deter him from visiting. “They’re not going to get in, are they?” he mused.
No extra security measures were visible at the Kildare Street entrance to Leinster House following Wednesday’s protest.
Anne Foley, from Co Waterford, praised the event as an opportunity to “soak up” the history of Leinster House. “All of my foreign friends, they’ve all been and I hadn’t yet. It was time to come and soak it up.”
Upon arrival, visitors were taken on a tour that included the Dáil, the Taoiseach’s landing and the Seanad. Olivia Colborn, another visitor, said she was surprised to learn that the country’s national colour, signified by the carpets in the Dáil chamber, was blue instead of green.
“I had no idea,” she said. “I’m from the US and I got my master’s here last year in European politics. I saw this was going on tonight and thought it was the perfect place to get a tour.”
Mr Starrbourke added that he was interested to see the voting buttons next to the seats inside the Dáil and the Seanad. “To see how people walk in and vote, seeing the buttons they push, it was really cute.” He was also pleased to take in a new series of portraits of female members of the Oireachtas. Friday was the first Culture Night where the public could see the new paintings, which were unveiled in December 2022.
Ann-Marie McLaughlin said she “learns something new every time I come here”. On this occasion, she said a detail about the copy of the Proclamation of Independence framed in the building’s entrance hall surprised her. Ushers told visitors of how printers of the original document had to create the letter c in Irish Republic by smudging the letter o due to a lack of printing resources.
“The proclamation, the o changing to the c, that’s new,” said Ms McLaughlin. “The tour guide did a fantastic job. I’m very proud of the place and the history behind it. It’s a chance for me to show it to my friend who has never been here before, to show what actually goes on with our politics in the famous building.”