Farmleigh lodge slept in for 7 nights since €600k revamp

THE lodge at state-owned Farmleigh House which was renovated at a cost of €600,000 to the taxpayer has been slept in just seven times in two years.

Steward’s Lodge in Farmleigh in Phoenix Park — touted as a future home for the country’s taoisigh — has only been slept in five times by Brian Cowen in the 183 nights since he took charge.

In 2005, Mr Cowen’s predecessor Bertie Ahern signed off on the €600,000 renovation of the four-bedroom Steward’s Lodge as a possible official residence for the head of the government.

Security concerns had been raised as to the suitability of sitting taoisigh living out of city-centre apartments liable to change at every election.

In February, the Office of Public Works (OPW) confirmed it had upgraded its security system, and since then photographs of it are not permitted.

However, the added protection has not encouraged Mr Cowen to seek it out as a midweek sanctuary.

When he became Taoiseach, it was expected he would live in the lodge when the Dáil was sitting.

However, he said his preference was to remain based in Tullamore, as this was the constituency that elected him.

Since 1999 the lodge has hosted one visiting group, the European agriculture commissioner and two others. They stayed for two nights.

Otherwise it has remained largely off limits.

It is not mentioned on Farmleigh’s website.

Junior minister with responsibility for the OPW Martin Mansergh said the lodge has been busy recently — by its standards.

“It has been used by the Taoiseach for a small number of informal meetings over recent weeks.

“The Taoiseach has also stayed overnight on five occasions when official duties prevented his return to his residence,” he said.

Mr Mansergh said the Government was investigating how the lodge might be used in future.

It was bought in 1999 as part of the state’s acquisition of the Farmleigh estate for €29 million.

The lodge was renovated in 2006 at a cost of €568,076, plus €30,747 for landscaping work to its walled garden. The OPW said it has been available since the start of 2007.

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