A BIGGER space for the “father of the House”, a Senator’s files and personal belongings packed up and moved to reception, and a dispute between Fine Gael and the President’s daughter over vacating a room … just some of the teething problems in Leinster House after the general election.
Details of the moves were released by the Oireachtas as part of an FOI looking for all official requests for accommodation made by TDs, Senators, and their political parties since the start of the year.
Senator David Norris asked for a bigger office because of his longevity of service in Leinster House according to an email.
Sent to the Superintendent in charge of Leinster House, he wrote: “As Father of the House I would really appreciate if it would be possible to move to a larger room than the one I am currently in.
“I have been based in the Engineering Block for quite some time and feel that as I said, being Father of the House (almost thirty years a member) that now would be a good time to move to a larger space.”
Senator Norris did not return phone calls asking if he had been facilitated in his move.
Another Senator ended up without any office — let alone a large one — for several months after the election, the letters reveal.
Frances Black, the well-known singer, had been elected to the Seanad but was never provided a “permanent office” and was at first forced to hold meetings in the coffee dock.
“It’s difficult to have conversations without interruption, some of which are confidential,” she wrote in an email in May.
A couple of weeks later, she was again forced to email for an update having moved to a temporary office only to have her “limited files, laptops, coat, [and] personal items” packed up and moved to reception.
She explained that she was not fussy but just needed somewhere “as long as [it] has the required space and natural light”.
Senator Black said she was finally given a permanent home: “That was all resolved, I got my office in the end and I’m very happy in it.”
There was no such happy ending for the Anti Austerity Alliance and People Before Profit grouping after they complained of “overcrowded” rooms and insufficient parking space.
They did manage to get an extra room, according to a spokesman, and that has eased pressure on space but their parking difficulties were not addressed.
Sinn Féin were also left without a meeting room to call their home for several months after the election after being promised they would get the one that had been used by the Labour party, who had been decimated in the election.
In April, TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh wrote to complain that his attempts to get a suitable room were unresolved and that they were having to hold meetings away from Leinster House.
A couple of weeks later, party president Gerry Adams added his voice in a separate email saying it was “critically important” they were given a suitable room.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh explained: “After the election, Labour retained their parliamentary room and we ended up with a committee room. We had nothing for during the day time though, and sometimes we would have to go off-site for meetings. It was totally unsuitable.
“We were the bigger group and it had been agreed we would get one of the larger party rooms but they were delaying, delaying, and delaying. Eventually, it was sorted out in the summer and we were given Labour’s room.”
A separate battle also took place over the office of Senator Alice Mary Higgins, which Fine Gael wanted for themselves.
In an email sent by a party administrator, Fine Gael said: “The Whip [Regina Doherty] had a telephone conversation with Senator Higgins outlining to the Senator that she would have to vacate office 350 and move to alternative accommodation.
“My understanding is that Senator Alice Higgins has been offered two alternative offices … and has refused to take either.”
In an email outlining her position, Senator Higgins explained that she had previously accommodated a switch of offices.
“I believe therefore I have been very reasonable and I am not willing to move again,” she said. “I therefore again underscore that the delivery of crates and proposal to move has not been agreed to or acceptable. Moreover, no justification has been offered.”
Neither Senator Higgins or Fine Gael would comment on the background to their office disagreement.