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Oireachtas gym shouldn't be 'solely funded by the tax-payer': Fitness centre goes out to tender

€100,000 gym equipment goes out to tender for TDs, Senators and staff of Leinster House.

File Photo: An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe pictured at the launch of the National Physical Activity Plan.
File Photo: An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe pictured at the launch of the National Physical Activity Plan.
Image: Sam Boal

THE TAX-PAYER IS is set to splurge over €100,000 on new gym equipment for the Oireachtas that will help TDs get into shape and be ‘general election ready’.

This follows the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission seeking tenders from firms to provide a range of cardiovascular equipment, weight resistance and ancillary equipment for the Oireachtas Fitness Room which is used by TDs, Senators and Oireachtas staff.

The move by the Oireachtas Commission to modernise the equipment available will gladden gym enthusiast, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar is leading by example and his much publicised personal fitness regime last year coincided with a sharp increase in the use of the Oireachtas gym by TDs and Senators with visits going up by 41% to 390.

That may increase even more now as talk of a possible General Election continues with TDs and Senators, mindful of the fitness levels required to be crisscrossing the country and knocking on doors in an election campaign, may utilise the facilities at a greater level.

The figures for 2017 show that TDs and Senators however only make up a small portion of the 4,740 gym sessions recorded at the Oireachtas gym last year with the remainder being made by Oireachtas staff.

However, they can all look forward to shiny new equipment with the delivery of the equipment being made on 1 December next.

From then on, users will be able to use a range of new equipment that includes four treadmills, two cross trainers, one upright bike; a spin-bike; a rowing machine, a lateral pull-down machine; a chest press; a leg press machine, a machine assisted pull-up; a wall mounted mat rack and multi-purpose workout mats.

In the tender, the Oireachtas Commission has put an estimated price tag of €100,000 (excluding VAT) to supply the equipment over the next two years. The supplier will also have to maintain the equipment over the two-year period – the existing equipment in the gym will be ‘traded out’ against the new equipment.

The fitness room opened to members and staff in November 2005 with the aim, according to the Oireachtas Commission “of offering a healthy recreational outlet to counterbalance some of the negative lifestyle aspects of working long irregular hours in the Parliament”. 

The Fitness Room is situated in the lower ground floor of Kildare House and is operated by an external provider.  The Oireachtas Commission states that: “The fitness room is used actively throughout the year, with an average of approximately 400 visits per month.”

Enthusiastic runner and walker, Timmy Dooley TD (FF) said on Friday that he doesn’t use the gym at Kildare House.

However, the Clare TD said that it shouldn’t be solely funded by the tax-payer and that users should be pay a small membership fee.

To avoid the perception of the Oireachtas being seen to be looking after itself, users should make a small contribution  towards the running of the gym and speaking to those who use it, I don’t think any of them would be against that.

Last year, the running costs of the gym totalled just over €45,000.

Deputy Dooley said that it is laudable in an era when there is so much focus on personal health that the gym is there in the workplace at the Oireachtas “but users should help pay for it”. 

The closing date for tenders is 7 November with the Oireachtas seeking that the equipment be delivered on 1 December.

A spokesman for the Oireachtas Commission said on Friday: “The equipment being replaced dates to 2004-2005 and suffers from wear and tear and, in some cases, electronic consoles no longer function. It will be sold, so its current second-hand market value will be recouped.”

The spokesperson said the Oireachtas is committed to providing a healthy work environment for members, staff and gallery journalists.

Its commitment is rooted in public policy, including “Healthy Ireland, A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing 2013-2025,” the national framework for improving the health and wellbeing of people living in Ireland. The framework identifies several actions relevant to providing a Fitness Room for members, staff and gallery journalists, including Action 1.6.

That action states: “All public sector organisations and workplaces will be required by Government to promote and protect the health and wellbeing of their workforce, their clients and the community they serve.”

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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