Sunday 15 September 2019

Dail's €200k helipad shut down after sitting idle since Haughey left office

All quiet: The helipad on the roof of Government Buildings. Photo: Getty
All quiet: The helipad on the roof of Government Buildings. Photo: Getty

Mark O'Regan

A helipad installed on the roof of Government Buildings at Charles Haughey's behest has been decommissioned, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

Despite costing the equivalent of €200,000 to install when Government Buildings was refurbished in 1990, after Haughey came to power, the helipad has been used on only a handful of occasions.

Haughey was the last leader to use the direct stairway from the Taoiseach's office to the helipad.

"Haughey was the last Taoiseach to have used it. Bertie Ahern, Barry Cowen and Enda Kenny didn't bother with it," a source said.

When in operation the helipad was used by the Air Corps for "official purposes" - transporting government ministers.

Documents obtained by the Sunday Independent show that in 2013 a civil servant in the Department of Defence wrote to the Department of the Taoiseach enquiring about helicopter access.

He wrote: "In the past, the pad was used by the Air Corps for official purposes (transport of ministers of government).

"However it has not been used for many years. The question has arisen as to whether it is envisaged that the helipad will be used for the foreseeable future.

"If it is required, then the Air Corps would need to assess its suitability for use by their current helicopter types, as well as review protocols for its use in both normal and emergency situations, prior to conducting proving flights on to the pad."

In response, the Taoiseach's head of protocol wrote: "I have spoken to the Taoiseach's private office and I can confirm that there are no plans to use the helipad on Government Buildings in the foreseeable future."

In a statement last week, the Department of the Taoiseach said the helipad had not been used for "many years". The source said it was "no longer suited to helicopter landings".

Meanwhile, new records show that Leo Varadkar and his ministers used the Government's Learjet 16 times in just three weeks last month.

In total, some €131,040 was spent on a mere 34 hours of flying - a hit to the taxpayer of €8,190 per journey.

Records show the Taoiseach travelled in style to Budapest, Sofia, Strasbourg and Zurich last month.

Tanaiste Simon Coveney took in Naples, Cairo, Tel Aviv, Birmingham and RAF Northolt.

Sunday Independent

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