THE University of Limerick (UL) was criticised last night for its "extravagance" after spending €1.1m on building a luxury five-bedroom house for its president.
In response to a Freedom of Information request, UL has confirmed that, up to the end of September 2009, it spent €1.1m on a new three-storey home for its president, Professor Don Barry.
The total bill for the home, which overlooks the River Shannon on UL's Clare campus, has not yet been finalised, as Prof Barry and his wife are only due to move in next month.
Accounts filed by a UL company, Plassey Campus Developments, show that by the end of September 2008 -- before any building work even commenced on Prof Barry's new home -- the university had already spent €124,266 on the project.
The university employed top architect and Aosdana member Shelley McNamara, of Grafton Architects, to design the three-storey home, which will also be used by future UL presidents.
The sister of well-known developer Bernard McNamara, Ms McNamara said in her submission that the character and form of the president's home was inspired by the language of the Irish townhouse.
The plans show the luxury home has reception and living rooms, a double-height dining room with a terrace, a family living room and kitchen, and five bedrooms.
The spend on the home, however, comes against the background of UL recording a deficit of €1m in its most recently published accounts, with the university having an accumulated deficit of €3m.
Last night, Fine Gael education spokesman Brian Hayes TD said: "I am astonished that the university could engage in such extravagance when it is in deficit and students' registration fees have been hiked up from €900 to €1,500."
UL has pointed out that the cost of the building has been funded entirely from private and philanthropic donations.
The general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers, Mike Jennings, claimed yesterday the "spending on a grand scale" by UL "is damaging and dispiriting for the morale" of union members.
Union of Students in Ireland president Peter Mannion said yesterday: "This is money ill-spent and it is very hard to justify spending more than €1m on a university president's home when there are massive cutbacks taking place in the third-level sector."
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