The king and queen consort of one of Africa’s poorest countries were the only heads of state to stay overnight at the State’s €52m Farmleigh House last year.
King Letsie III of Lesotho and his wife, Queen Consort Masenate Mohato Seeiso, stayed at the 18th-century Georgian residence for two nights last May during an official visit.
The only other overnight residents were members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The 78-acre Farmleigh estate on Dublin’s Phoenix Park — purchased by the State at a cost of €29.2m from the Guinness family in 1999 and refurbished by the Office of Public Works (OPW) at an additional cost of €23m — is the State’s official guesthouse for heads of state and dignitaries.
Brian Hayes, junior minister with responsibility for the OPW, said the operational, maintenance, and energy costs for Farmleigh last year topped almost €3m — or €8,167 per day.
In a written Dáil reply to Fine Gael’s John Deasy, Mr Hayes confirmed that last year, the overall running costs came to €2.981m.
Mr Hayes confirmed that 2,297 people attended 39 events at Farmleigh, a steep drop on the 6,407 that attended 89 events in 2010.
However, the number of public visitors to the State residence increased to 375,064 last year — up 40% on the 267,904 visitors in 2010.
Last night, Mr Deasy said Farmleigh is not being used for its original purpose to accommodate heads of state.
The member of the Public Accounts Committee said he would ask the committee to examine the costs associated with running the residence. He said: “The costs for last year total almost €3m and someone is going to have to justify those costs. It is an extraordinary amount of money.”
Mr Deasy said the number of public visitors to Farmleigh last year was substantial and that monies generated from events are not specified and may go some way to meeting the running costs.
Mr Deasy said the closure of Farmleigh and the savings it would generate should be considered rather than the closure of the Seanad.
“We have been told that the direct costs of operating the Seanad costs between €8m and €9m per year. I believe it worth considering shutting down and selling Farmleigh as a substitute for shutting down the Seanad.”
The OPW said it required additional time to respond to Mr Deasy’s query.
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