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Thursday 28 August 2014

McGuinness's €250,000 office – complete with secret door to luxury lavatory

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

Published 18/04/2013 | 05:00

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Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness

NEW details have emerged of the €250,000 office built for the chairman of the Dail public spending watchdog when he has a junior minister, including a "concealed door" to the ministerial toilet hidden in wood panelling.

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The Irish Independent has obtained the architects' plans which were approved by Fianna Fail TD John McGuinness, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), weeks after he was made a junior minister by then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 2007.

Mr McGuinness insists he had no part in the costing or fit-out for the work, but the architects' plans approved by the Carlow-Kilkenny deputy show a suite of between six and seven rooms within the Department of Enterprise on Kildare Street. The plans do not have any costings or pricing included in them.

They show concealed doors in timber panelling, including one hiding the entrance to Mr McGuinness' en suite bathroom – complete with wardrobe and mirrors – from his main office and boardroom. Previous records obtained by the Irish Independent showed a total of €6,671 was spent on walnut storage cabinets and wardrobes for the office.

Nobody else had access to the bathroom. The specifications stated that only luxury toilet roll be used in Mr McGuinness's toilet.

The PAC meets this week for the first time since details of the office emerged.

The PAC has the Department of Communications and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) before it today, but the ministerial office spend could also be raised by members.

However, the only TDs to so far call for the PAC to investigate it are those outside the committee.

Fine Gael Cavan-Monaghan TD Heather Humphreys, who is not a member, said she expected her party colleagues on the committee to push for it to be investigated.

"It is part of their brief," Ms Humphreys said.

"I think the Fine Gael members should absolutely be looking at how this money was spent. I know it was 2007, but this was €250,000, enough to buy a house."

The documents also show it took almost two weeks to design the office, with the process taking 13 days. The tender process took another six days and it was built in 20 days.

Coffered

The plans also showed more expensive "coffered ceilings" were installed in Mr McGuinness's office, but not anywhere else. The process started on July 11, 2007, and ended by August 31.

Mr McGuinness has maintained he gave the go-ahead after seeing the broad outline of the plans, and the work was complete when he returned from the summer break. The office kit-out included Mr McGuinness's personal office with boardroom table, an office for his private secretary, which also had a large waiting area for visitors, the minister's en suite, another office for his administrative staff and two spare rooms.

An email between staff on July 17 says: "Please see the attached drawings. I have spoken to (name redacted) and they are anxious to get the minister's approval as soon as possible. Can you get the minister's approval today please?"

A reply email the following day said: "Apologies for the delay in replying to Minister McGuinness. Only got into me late this afternoon. He is satisfied with the revised plans which you sent on to me and has given his approval."

Mr McGuinness did not return calls.

Irish Independent

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