THE TEMPORARY car park in Leinster House, which covered a historic lawn when it was created nearly a decade ago, is to be removed this summer, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission decided this week.
However, the decision to restore Leinster Lawn was not easily made, according to sources, and a number of members of the commission opposed the motion proposed by Fianna Fáil TD Michael Mulcahy.
Leinster House has 293 parking spaces which are used by members of the Oireachtas, some Oireachtas officials and some journalists. It will have 225 once the work is completed.
The Office of Public Works is prepared to offer 29 replacement spaces at other government institutions, but a spokesman last night said: “We will not be buying new stock.”
Minister of State at the OPW Martin Mansergh urged the members of the commission – which is responsible for running Leinster House – to agree to the change, which is unpopular with many in the buildings.
Leinster House, he said, could not seek to retain a development that should have disappeared years ago as part of the planning conditions that were given when a major extension called LH2000 was built.
Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey wrote a strongly worded letter to the commission, supporting the removal of the parking places and arguing that politicians had to give a lead on public transport.
The restoration of the lawn will be done by the OPW at a cost of approximately €200,000 – a far cry from the €500,000 figure that was pencilled in for the work in earlier plans.
That earlier figure was based on the assumed use of contractors to do the job. Using OPW staff will be more economical, Mr Mansergh told the commission.
Leinster Lawn, which faces Merrion Square in front of the Houses of the Oireachtas, was replaced by a car park in July 1998 as a temporary measure during the construction of LH200.
The planning permission for the work at the time required the lawn be reinstated after the building work was done, but this did not happen because the OPW deferred the work on the grounds that an underground car park was to be built.
The decision on Wednesday means that the car park, which would have cost €25 million and would have been open to the public, has now been deferred indefinitely because of the cutbacks.