A DINING table costing almost €11,000, curtains worth over €10,000, and two book cases — each costing €3,600 — were among just some of the hand-made furniture and interior items purchased by the taxpayer for embassies and ambassadorial residences last year.
The Department of Foreign Affairs spent over €200,000 kitting out diplomatic buildings in the cities of Jakarta, Zagreb, and Vienna in 2015.
The decoration of the embassies and official residences in Indonesia, Croatia, and Austria were three of the largest projects last year with well over €300,000 spent on furniture and fittings in a variety of locations.
In April of last year, more than €49,000 was spent on a selection of hand-made items for the embassy building in Jakarta, Indonesia.
That included €9,000 for a cherry table, €7,200 for two glazed cherry book cases, and another €7,200 for four “pedestal oak desks”.
A cherry sideboard was also purchased for €2,200 with €800 paid out for each of four oak side tables, according to the records.
In all, the invoice came to more than €60,000 after VAT was added on … although the added tax of €11,000 at least goes back to the Exchequer.
A month later — another €54,870 was paid out on a single invoice for furniture for Indonesia, this time for the official residence of the Ambassador in Jakarta.
It included an oak dining table costing €10,800, 24 oak chairs each costing €480 each, and three separate oak display units at a price of €3,900 each.
Also purchased were an oak sideboard costing €2,400, two hall tables for €3,400, and eight coffee tables each costing €850.
Finally, ten lamp tables were also ordered at a cost of €8,250, which brought the final bill to more than €67,000 after VAT was included.
In March, €39,020 was spent on furniture for the embassy building in Zagreb, including €3,950 paid out for a cherry desk.
A cherry table cost €7,200, with two glazed bookcases costing another €7,200 combined. Side tables, a conference table, and almost €13,500 for 29 chairs brought the final bill to €47,994.60 when VAT was added on to it.
Two items were later purchased for the Ambassador’s residence in Zagreb from a different furniture firm, Dunleavy Bespoke in Co Kildare.
As part of that order, €5,500 was paid for a walnut sideboard while €2,800 went on a walnut bookcase, making for a total bill (including VAT) of €10,209.
To redecorate the residence of the Austrian Ambassador, just over €20,000 was paid out to an upmarket Viennese interiors firm Joseph Stary.
That included almost €10,000 paid out for curtains for the official residence on Theresianumgasse, which is close to Vienna’s famous Belvedere palaces and gardens and is rented at a cost of almost €9,000 per month.
The curtain bill was made up of €6,237 for decorating the main hall, another €1,732 for the library and a further €2,079 for the dining room.
Of the money that was spent on furniture, more than €160,000 was paid to one company FitzGerald’s of Kells, records released following a Freedom of Information request show.
The company say on their website that they have secured a “blue-chip international and domestic client base”.
“We have supplied furniture to Irish embassies throughout the world including Madrid, Tokyo, Prague, Kuala Lumpur, Bonn, London, New York and Tel Aviv,” they say.
FitzGerald’s describe themselves as “architectural woodworkers” and with a reputation for producing the highest quality of furniture.
Also released under FOI by the Department was a €5,700 hotel bill for an official visit of the President of Germany Joachim Gauck to Ireland in July 2015.
While in Dublin, the President was a guest at the state-owned Farmleigh House but the delegation was later put up for a night at Glenlo Abbey Hotel in Galway.
Eighteen rooms in the hotel were booked for the visit with three separate grand suites reserved at a cost of €459 per night.
In a note explaining the costs, the Department said: “A state visit is the highest level of official visit … during a state visit, the Irish side cover some of the costs arising, including the accommodation of the visiting Head of State and up to 15 members of the visiting delegation. This is in line with the practice of many of our international partners.”
Explaining the exorbitant cost of the furniture, they said: “The Department provides an efficient, effective and comprehensive range of services abroad on behalf of the Irish government, to businesses and citizens, while also proactively watching costs and seeking to provide value for money.
“The official premises managed abroad by the Department — both embassy offices and official accommodation — are essential platforms for providing … services to our citizens and Irish business, and promoting Ireland.
“The primary purpose of these premises is to enable Irish officials to host events which raise economic and cultural opportunities. They also showcase Irish art, design, culture, tourism and food produce on the internationals stage.
“Accordingly, it is essential that our office space and official accommodation present a very positive image of Ireland and its excellent potential as a business partner.”
A version of this article appeared in yesterday’s Irish Daily Mail
Full set of documents below with first invoice covering the cost of fitting out Passport Office in Cork so keep scrolling down for the diplomatic bills