Belfast Telegraph

Dublin Castle ‘totally impracticable’ for major conferences

A government official made the comment in a letter – released under the 30-year rule – to the Office of Public Works in 1985.

Former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, centre, and former foreign secretary Lord Carrington, left, at a European Council Summit at Dublin Castle (PA)
Former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher, centre, and former foreign secretary Lord Carrington, left, at a European Council Summit at Dublin Castle (PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

A proposal to use Dublin Castle as a venue for conferences and European Council meetings was deemed “totally impracticable” by Irish government officials, declassified state papers have revealed.

In a letter to the Office of Public Works, released under the 30-year rule, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs said security problems associated with the venue could not be over-emphasised.

The letter, dated May 31 1985, stated that the Government was conducting a report into the feasibility of the occasional use of private facilities for conference purposes at Dublin Castle.

The security problems associated with the occasional use of private or commercial facilities as a venue for such meetings cannot be over-emphasised Department of Foreign Affairs

The report was part of the proposed restoration and development of the site.

The Department of Foreign Affairs official said: “It is this department’s considered and firm opinion that this option is totally impracticable insofar as meetings involving ministers and heads of state and government during our next EC (European Council) Presidency in 1990 are concerned.

“This view is based on security, cost and operational consideration.

“The security problems associated with the occasional use of private or commercial facilities as a venue for such meetings cannot be over-emphasised.”

The cost associated with even the occasional hire of private facilities for our EC meetings would be significant Department of Foreign Affairs

Dublin Castle was closed to the public for six months when Ireland held the 1979 and 1984 presidencies, to cater for high-level EC meetings.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was made aware that two heads of government would not contemplate using facilities for accommodation or meetings which had not been totally secured for a period of six months beforehand.

The official added: “Our planning for the 1990 presidency must include the assumption that they, and perhaps other senior political personalities, would not be prepared to attend a meeting of the European Council organised in a building such as a hotel to which there had been uncontrolled access in the previous six months.

“The cost associated with even the occasional hire of private facilities for our EC meetings would be significant.

“Whilst it is obviously impossible to give precise costings at this stage, the figure involved could be of the order of £2 million.

“Finally, it needs to be borne in mind that the occasional use of private facilities, even if this were acceptable to our EC partners, would create very significant problems for the physical organisation of our EC meetings and for the departments with responsibilities in this area.

“These problems would arise due to the need to repeatedly install, remove and re-install in good working order, over a six-month period, conference.”

PA

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