€265k taxpayer spend on Leinster House carpets branded 'scandalous' by flood victims

More than €250,000 of taxpayers’ money has been spent on new velvet carpets for Leinster House after the improvements were “prioritised” over other services.

Details obtained by the Irish Examiner show €265,000 was spent on the re-decoration last year, leading to a furious reaction from flood victims who have claimed the move shows how out of touch the political establishment has become.

Freedom of Information Act files confirm that at the start of 2015 Oireachtas officials became concerned over the “very poor state” of Leinster House carpet and how its image could give the wrong impression to those visiting the facility, adding that “urgent” changes needed to be “prioritised”.

After sending out a tender for replacement ground-, first- and second-floor ‘gun-tufted’ carpets made from “cut pile velvet 100% new wool” and stressing that “all materials and workmanship must be of the best quality” with “inferior materials not acceptable”, in February the Superintendent of the Houses Paul Conway estimated the price of the carpet change to be €153,000.

Concerns over the cost involved were raised later that month by Office of Public Works commissioner John McMahon, who said the sum was “obviously high” and suggested officials should “explore less expensive though obviously lower quality carpet”.

However, after the suggestion was ignored, by mid-June the full cost of the initial plan had soared to €250,000 — and rose further in July to €265,000 excluding VAT after further additions were made to the expensive redecoration plans.

While it was pointed out as early as February that at least some of the carpets — which were finally put in place in September — may have to be temporarily taken up as soon as next month because of separate refurbishment works on the campus, the decision was made to bring in external firms Rugs by Design and Sé Quirke to put the new items in place before this occurred. As a result, the expensive new carpets are likely to be removed and stored elsewhere in the coming weeks — using further taxpayer funds.

Despite being small in the national scale of spending, the €265,000 cost has led to an angry response from people affected by Ireland’s ongoing flood crisis, who insisted last night the money could have been put to better use elsewhere.

While recognising the need for a political campus to look its best, Bandon Flood Group member Gillian Powell said the amount of money spent to replace carpets shows how out of touch some in the political sphere are with the reality for struggling families.

“That’s a scandalous amount of money to spend on carpets. They always seem to look after themselves instead of the common good. We’re talking about basic things like sandbags, so it is absolutely scandalous to hear carpets are a priority. We all accept Leinster House needs to look good, but it already looked pretty good to me,” she said.

The €265,000 spend could have been used to pay for 16,562 hours of Jack and Jill Foundation home help support for children with life- limiting conditions; or 11,800 fuel allowance payments for elderly people; or more than 200,000 13in x 30in flood prevention sand bags.

The Oireachtas declined to provide correspondence from TDs and senators who raised concerns over the standard of Leinster House carpets when asked.

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