Money to fund support for representation in former Labour strongholds and to prepare the party for the local elections in three years is instead paying for a deluxe penthouse office, emptied of staff.
Party leader Joan Burton was confronted about the dilemma at a post-election meeting of candidates last week in Dublin, amid concerns that the office lease — understood to run until the end of 2017 — is gobbling up the reduced resources left after the disastrous election outcome.
Labour sold its Georgian House headquarters on Ely Place, besides St Stephens Green, last year at a knock down price of €800,000 compared to the €3m it cost several years earlier. The party then moved to the penthouse in the lavish eight-storey Bloodstone building, one of the finest in Dublin 2’s so-called Silicon Docks.
Labour agreed a three-year lease, paying rent of €212,000 a year. Most of the other space in the Bloodstone building is occupied by high-tech American firms.
While the party hosted media events regularly at the penthouse overlooking the Liffey during the election, Labour sources point out that, with significantly reduced parliamentarians returned, much fewer staff will now be using the office.
One irate parliamentarian told the Irish Examiner: “We brought this up last week, but it was hushed up, slapped down at the meeting. The overall view is that it was sold below value originally. Then, with the new place, it was clear half the parliamentary party would be gone, so less space would be required for offices. What’s the point now having a panoramic place, a state of the art building, when we have only seven TDs left?
“The concern is [the money] could be used elsewhere. There are whole swathes of the country now without Labour representation that need resources. There was no proper discussion among the membership about the original sale, it was all done cloak and dagger.”
Labour officially has confirmed that, before the election, it was receiving around €2.8m annually in state funding. However, following the election, with just seven TDs, it now gets about €900,000 a year from the state, a spokesman said. A quarter of this remaining funding will now be spent on the new offices.
“We are now having to rely on the goodwill of volunteers, while paying for this flashy, white, top-floor penthouse, which we now call Labour’s Taj Mahal,” added a frustrated party source.