The OPW, three light bulbs and a National monument

One may be forgiven for feeling trenched in utter astonishment after finding a statement concerning the National monument no. 140, Grianán of Aileach, mentioned in a press release responding to accusations made by the Garda Representative Association against the OPW.
The rather generous spending habits of this state body hit the headlines in Donegal after it was revealed that the OPW paid over 1000 Euros to change three light bulbs in a Garda Station.
It is most certainly beyond the capability of my comprehension, why the OPW felt obliged to add Grianán of Aileach to its attempt of justification. Nevertheless, since public money has been spent for nearly a decade on a public project (National monument) by the Office of Public Works, which earned its members in charge of the monument the nickname ‘The hole in the wall gang’, it would be of vital public interest to see the cost of these ‘conservation works’ and the so far futile attempt to ‘improve the structures future stability’. The 2001 ‘detailed archaeological and engineering investigation ‘, which took a year to carry out and led to concreting a dry stone monument and changing its appearance and shape dramatically, would also require closer investigation as how much was paid to whom. The execution of this investigation has left Grianán of Aileach with a frequent occurrence of collapses and visitors with a closed or partially closed National monument.
Last year at least one meeting between the Inishowen representatives of Donegal County Council and the OPW took place in strange secrecy concerning this issue. I sent each of them before hand information about the recent collapses and asked them to approach the OPW over the expense of their ‘work’ carried out at Grianán so far. I suppose it was somehow a response as in January this year a motion was put forward by one councillor “That Donegal County Council immediately lead up a strategic initiative to maximise the tourism potential of Grianan of Aileach in partnership with the OPW and Duchas and to give An Grianan its place in our national heritage.” All members voted in favour of this motion. Not even one of our gallant politicians had any knowledge of the abolition of the state body Duchas in 2003.

PS: The unexpected inclusion of Grianán in a response to the Garda Representative Association is a copy and past exercise. They never could spell lintels (‘lintols‘)

The link to the OPW website may not be there for long. It has a history of disappearing information.

Gardai call for end to ‘disastrous’ OPW
By Tom Brady
Wednesday April 29 2009
Gardai have called for the abolition of the Office of Public Works (OPW), which they describe as an unmitigated disaster.
Rank and file members of the force yesterday accused the OPW of “blundering incompetence”, leaving thousands of gardai in diabolical working conditions, in overcrowded and inappropriate buildings.
The savage attack on the Government body was made at the GRA conference in Killarney yesterday, where GRA president Michael O’Boyce demanded action from Justice Minister Dermot Ahern.
He called on the minister to bring a proposal to abolish the OPW, or at the very least remove it from any involvement in garda accommodation.
Mr O’Boyce said the OPW had failed to future-proof garda stations, with many being too small. And he alleged that the body squandered public money with no concept of value.
He said that a contractor had offered to refurbish the gym in Letterkenny Garda Station at a cost of €5,000 but when the OPW took charge, the cost became €15,000. Mr O’Boyce also claimed that it cost €1,100 to replace three light bulbs.
The allegations were rejected by the OPW, whose spokesman said he was surprised and disappointed.
– Tom Brady

OPW Response to GRA Statements April 28 2009
PRESS RELEASE

OPW RESPONSE TO STATEMENTS BY THE GARDA REPRESENTATIVE ASSOCATION
The OPW is surprised and disappointed to hear the statements made by Mr. Michael O’Boyce, President of the Garda Representative Association (GRA) regarding the work of the OPW. The OPW has always had an excellent working
relationship with the Garda Authorities and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
The GRA in their statement highlighted a small number of specific examples, which they claim is indicative of the work that OPW undertake. These four examples, when put into the context of managing over seven hundred Garda Stations throughout the country and other Garda facilities such as Garda Headquarters, Templemore Garda Training College, Harcourt Terrace etc., would appear relatively trivial. The facts below speak for themselves. OPW is at all times conscious of obtaining maximum value for money for the State
OPW has undertaken a very successful Garda Building Programme in recent years. Since 1995, some €219m has been spent by OPW providing new Garda accommodation including Templemore Garda College and carrying out major extensions and refurbishments to existing Garda Stations. From 2004 to 2008 alone over €136m has been spent on major capital works.
It is alleged by the GRA that OPW has failed to ‘future proof’ new Garda Stations in that many are too small when opened. The design of any Garda Station is based on a brief of requirements provided by An Garda Síochána in the first instance. Occasionally, due to Garda operational requirements, it can be the case that between the award of a construction contract and final completion additional facilities may be required. This is more the exception than the rule.

The facts relating to the examples given by the GRA are:
· Letterkenny Garda Station – Refurbishment of Gym.
The GRA have chosen to extract one item from the overall quotation and are not comparing like for like in their statement. The actual electrical costs alone which were associated with the project, was €10,366.18 excl. VAT. This was a necessary part of the work involved but was not captured in the quotation sourced by the Garda.
· Ballinhassig Garda Station
The statement quoted is inaccurate on two counts:
1. the work involved is for a new shower unit and a new kitchen fit-out, with associated services to provide these facilities
2. the estimate provided was €14,000 excl. VAT (€15,890.00 incl. VAT) for both elements.
This estimate was provided on 21/07/08. We await approval to proceed and the works have not been undertaken.

· Churchill Garda Station
OPW currently have a publicly procured ‘drawdown’ contract for floor coverings, which is at the disposal of all Government Departments and used extensively by An Garda Síochána funded through Garda Procurement Division.
In January 2009, Churchill GS was one of a number of stations in Donegal identified in need of such materials. The cost of €4,050.00 (incl.VAT) included marmoleum, safety floor, stair nosings and sheeting of floors in preparation for floor covering. It should be noted that OPW had no direct involvement at any stage in the processing of this request. This was handled directly between local Garda personnel and the nominated “draw down” contractor.

· Grianan Aileach – National Monument No.140

Pre OPW condition of the site:
A detailed illustrated description of the site can be found in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of 1837. The remains of the original structure were in a totally collapsed state with the surviving stonework scattered around the hilltop. Between 1874 and 1878, a local expert undertook a rebuilding project on the site of Grianan Aileach. His excavations appear to have revealed the remains of small collapsed sections of the lower level of the outer wall. In the absence of further archaeological evidence for its original appearance, he modelled his rebuild on the relatively intact Staigue Iron Age Fort in County Kerry. (Proceedings of the Royal
Irish Academy Vol1 1879)
History of collapse and the need for a more permanent repair method:
When the site came into State Care approximately thirty years later the restored walls were already in a dilapidated state with extensive collapse of the outer stonework. (76TH annual Report of Commissioners of Public Works 1907/08) Despite OPW efforts to carry out patch repair work to the monument over the next 80 years, OPW files show that the work conducted in
the 1870s was unstable and collapse was reoccurring on a regular basis. In 1989, following another major collapse and short term patch repair work, OPW undertook to monitor the condition of the monument and investigate intervention methods which could stabilise the structure.
Present OPW conservation effort:
In 2001 a detailed archaeological and engineering investigation was undertaken which revealed sections of the line of the disturbed ancient pre-restoration structure and confirmed the shape and outline of work undertaken in the 1870s. Because of the significant amenity value of the restored monument OPW considered that it would not be appropriate or feasible to dismantle and remove the restored stonework and to leave the site in its pre-restoration collapsed state. The engineer recommended that the bulging sections of walling which were liable to collapse should be dismantled and rebuilt. Due to the instability of the underlying surviving stonework, supports were inserted at the base of the rebuilt sections and over the lintols of the internal passageways. All external walling have a central fill which will considerably improve the structures future stability.
The wall tops have been secured in an effort to prevent interference causing stone collapse and the resultant risk to the visitor. The conservation works were completed by January 2008.

The OPW is very proud of the large portfolio of work that it has undertaken on behalf of all our clients, including the Garda Authorities, in the past and continues, despite the current challenging economic climate, to carry out a significant amount of projects in full consultation with our clients’ priorities.

Ends
* For further information contact George Moir, OPW Press Officer, (01) 647 6128 or (087) 231 4537.

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