Irish Independent wrote:Anger over 'waste' of â‚¬230,000 to restore Dail lawn
By Michael Brennan Political Correspondent
Tuesday July 21 2009
THE plan to restore the Dail car park to its former glory as 'Leinster Lawn' has been condemned as an "indefensible waste of public money".
The greening project, which is due to take place over the summer, will see the car park at the rear of Leinster House dug up at a cost of â‚¬230,000. It will also cost the taxpayer an undisclosed amount to hire extra car parking spaces in other city centre locations.
Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter said the work was "lunacy" at a time of unprecedented national economic crisis. "This is not the time for taxpayer's money to be allowed to walk out the gates of Leinster House. A stop must be put to this midsummer madness," he said.
The lawn was turned into a temporary 68-space car park in 1999 while re-development work took place on the new Millennium wing of Leinster House. Under planning permission conditions, it had to be restored after 10 years.
Mr Shatter called on Environment Minister John Gormley to support his call for the cancellation of the project and secure a retention order to comply with planning permission.
A spokesman for Mr Gormley said the decision to restore Leinster Lawn was made by the all-party Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, which includes three Fine Gael members.
"He is shocked that a TD of such long standing has such a basic lack of knowledge of how decisions are made in his own name and with his own party's support," he said.
Mr Gormley is a supporter of the move because he believes the people of Dublin would prefer a lawn to "an ugly car park".
"He believes it is long overdue and it is in breach of planning at the moment," his spokesman said.
The Office of Public Works will hire 29 extra car park spaces in other city centre locations, bringing the total number of spaces available to 254 for TDs, Senators and other staff working in Leinster House.
The Oireachtas Commission made its decision to restore the Leinster Lawn at a meeting earlier this year.
One of its members, Fine Gael Tipperary South TD Tom Hayes, said the commission had no option but to restore the lawn. "We have to abide by the rules and regulations. The Houses of the Oireachtas couldn't be seen to break the planning regulations when ordinary people have to do it," he said.
- Michael Brennan Political Correspondent