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Dublin: 11°C Wednesday 18 May 2022

Leinster House is crumbling, here's why they want to close it for the summer

Leinster House is to undergo its most significant restoration work to date.

LH 2 Leinster House, 1865-1914. Photographer, Robert French Source: National Library of Ireland/The Lawrence Photograph Collection

THERE WAS TALK along the halls of Leinster House this week that TDs would get early summer holidays, due to urgent structural works that needs to be done to Leinster House.

There was outcry from the opposition, who said it was farcical the Dáil would rise after only sitting for eight weeks.

However, the Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl slapped down the talk saying the restorative works would not require the Dáil to rise so early.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald said the matter would be discussed by the new Oireachtas business committee, but ultimately, the decision will be made by the Dáil.

So, what’s wrong with Leinster House?

Leinster House is over 250 years old and needs a bit of a face-lift.

The house was commissioned to be built between 1745-47 and was originally known as Kildare House after James Fitzgerald, the Earl of Kildare.

screenshot.1464354584.95887 View of Leinster House, Kildare Street, Dublin, Ireland. Engraver James Malton, 1803. Source: National Library of Ireland

LH 1 Leinster House, Dublin. Engraved by Thomas Milton after an original by John James Barralet. 1783 Source: National Library of Ireland

The house became known as Leinster House after he became the Duke of Leinster in 1776.

lh 4 Leinster House 1865-1914, taken by photographer Robert French. Source: National Library of Ireland/The Lawrence Photograph Collection

The building was a working home for the family, with the Seanad chamber once used as a ballroom and art gallery for the family.  

LH 3 Leinster House, between 1900-19139. Source: National Library of Ireland/Eason Photographic Collection

Fun fact: The first balloon ascent in Ireland was made in July 1783 by Richard Crosbie from Leinster Lawn.

screenshot.1464354076.2407 Ascent of Richard Crosbie on July 19, 1785. His Grand Air Balloon and Flying Barge went as far as Clontarf. Source: National Library of Ireland

After the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, part of the house was used by parliament, until the state acquired the building in 1924.

The building has a long history, so it is no surprise the house needs a bit of work done to it.

A spokesman for the Houses of the Oireachtas said the Office of Public Works said:

Georgian Leinster House is the original house, built in 1745, which has been added to over the years to meet the needs of its various occupants.
The actual footprint of the original house includes the Seanad chamber and support areas, the Library reading room, the main lobby hall and corridor towards the Dáil stairwell, the Ceann Comhairle’s office, the (Seanad) Cathaoirleach’s Office, the General Office and the Enquiries Office.

Over the last 270 years there have been many changes to the occupancy of the house, they added.

The wear and tear on the fabric of the House has become evident and initial conservation steps were taken to protect the ornate ceilings and other historic features.The internal fabric of the House has been carefully managed over the years, however, it is now time to address the underlying issues…

lh 5 Dáil chamber 1900-1939 Source: National Library of Ireland/Eason Photographic Collection

The electronic voting system in the Dáil chamber also needs to be upgraded, to provide a button for TDs who want to abstain on votes.

As one Fine Gael TD put it:

New politics has to facilitate abstentions.

Currently, there is only a facility to cast a vote for or against a proposal. It is also planned that the sound system in the Dáil chamber will be upgraded.

The Dáil Chamber, the committee rooms and the members’ offices are not affected by the conservation works.

The OPW said it wants to conserve the historical features of the House for future generations. “The business of the parliament will not be disrupted,” it said.

The refurbishment project is open to public tender, which states there is to be a relocation of the existing comms room, structural strengthening to some existing floors, as well as fire upgrading works.

There is to be refurbishment of the existing historic windows, window shutters and other internal joinery items, as well as stone repairs both internally and externally.

The OPW says it wants to reinstate the original entrance door to Leinster Lawn (including demolition of existing portico) and carry out work on the plaster ceilings.

A spokesperson said it is now time to address the “longer term conservation needs of the House”.

Read: Repairs to Leinster House ‘shouldn’t result in early holidays for TDs’>

Read: ‘It’s too early and it’s too long’: TDs set to take three months’ holidays>

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