Farmleigh – a scandalous waste of money

1st August 2001

I GOT a tour of the revamped Farmleigh Estate last week – courtesy of the Office of Public Works – and it confirmed my worst fears about this gratuitous abuse of public funds.

The State paid £24m for the gaff to the Guinness family (who could have given it to the people when you consider what the people have given to them). The Guinness’s actually only wanted £13m or so and the Government have never explained why they paid so much for it.

Then £17m was spent doing the place up.

I won’t go through the details; you will have read about them in the press over the weekend. But you will know that absolutely no expense was spared and no detail overlooked.

And what for?

So that our Cabinet will have somewhere posh to stay over the weekend even though most of them either live in Dublin or within an hour’s drive of the city.

So that visiting VIPs can luxuriate at taxpayers’ expense. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Whatever the arguments about facilities for foreign visitors, the fact is that Farmleigh is complete overkill.

I got the impression on the tour that we (Ireland) were trying to be flash with the new money. So we’re doing what every crawling upwardly-mobile creep does – we’re trying to buy into old money.

The house is supposed to give a sense of Ireland. They have even named two of the apartments ‘The Michael Collins’ Suite’ and ‘The Eamonn De Valera Suite’, trying to tie in two of Ireland’s greatest republicans into the old house of the aristocracy and the landlord class.

Ireland, me arse.

I was waiting to come across ‘The James Connolly Drawing Room’ but thankfully our masters had the manners to keep his name clear of the place.

The underlying argument is that we’ll be able to wine and dine the good and the great and, in turn, they’ll sign the contracts and the trade agreements so that, really, it is for all our benefit. Ireland will set the standard in hospitality and diplomacy.

That’s what I’m afraid of.

Our Bertie was in Brazil last week. Tony Blair will be there this week. The thought that the Brazilian Government is wasting its money on the likes of Bertie and Tony by putting them up in places like Farmleigh while millions of Brazilian children haven’t enough to eat makes me want to puke.

The lessons of the last few world summits have been lost on the Irish Government.

The people of the world are absolutely sick of the opulence and indulgence of the wealthy countries at a time when 1 billion people live on a dollar a day.

Closer to home, the children of west Dublin can’t get pitches to play sport on. There’s no land. Either developers are hoarding it or the Government wants to build stadia on it.

Meanwhile, 76 acres on which you could put 200 pitches is reserved so that some bigwig looking out the window of the Michael Collins Suite will have a nice view.

As well as that…

Let them play in the park

A WHILE back when I was reporting on the Farmleigh scandal, I put it to an official of the OPW that the land could be better used for sports pitches.

“There’s lots of land in the Phoenix Park” he said. “We’re trying to create a different kind of experience here.”

Do you see what we’re dealing with here? Come back Marie Antoinette, all is forgiven.

This experience will be available to the general public on about six days a year and will be heavily controlled.

No strolling around, now. If you want to stroll you can go out into the park with the plebs.