Wednesday, 29 June 2005
I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am sure he is familiar with the issue I have raised tonight, namely, the provision of adequate cemetery space in the Dublin 15 area. The Church of Ireland cemetery in Castleknock village is now closed in respect of those who wish to be buried in the Catholic section. We have an unusual position in Castleknock where the Church of Ireland welcomed all denominations. However, as a result of the closure of that cemetery, there is huge demand for an additional cemetery.
I raised the issue of land for a cemetery when I was a member of Fingal County Council and the then manager, William Soffe, was very sympathetic to the idea. I had hoped, if we both remained on the council, that we would have made further progress on it. Keeping in mind the cost of land in the Dublin 15 area, I have been trying to identify a site on which it would be possible to deliver. I am aware that there is surplus land at Farmleigh and as the land is in State ownership I expect the Minister would be supportive of providing it for such a facility for the people of the area.
I cannot see any other possible areas where we could acquire land for a cemetery for the area. Having regard to the current and forecasted population of the Dublin 15 area, there is significant need for the provision of a new cemetery. I appeal to the Minister of State, as a representative for the area, to support me in this cause. Representatives of all parties should come together to support this proposal.
I suggest that a meeting should be held with all religious leaders in the area in order to open discussion on my proposal. We should work together to secure a cemetery for the area. My belief is that the surplus lands at Farmleigh would be an ideal location for it and I count on the Minister of State as the person with power to bring about for the people of Dublin 15.
I do not have the power to bring the matter forward. It is the responsibility of Fingal County Council in the first instance. With regard to the ownership of Farmleigh, it is managed on behalf of the Government by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Parlon, who has responsibility for the Office of Public Works.
I am making this reply on his behalf. There is cemetery space in the Dublin 15 area in the ownership of the Church of Ireland at Clonsilla and there is also a cemetery in Mulhuddart.
It is important to note that there is no surplus land at Farmleigh. This is not the first time efforts have been made by public representatives in the Dublin 15 area to represent the situation otherwise.
Farmleigh was purchased by the OPW on behalf of the Government in June 1999. Following major refurbishment works, at great cost, the house and grounds were officially opened by the Taoiseach in July 2001. It is a tremendous facility to have at the disposal of this country. Substantial access to Farmleigh has been arranged for those living in the neighbourhood, elsewhere in Dublin and throughout the State. It has been approved by the Government as a premier State facility for Government meetings requiring residential accommodation. It is used as an official State guest house for visiting heads of State and other senior foreign dignitaries. It is also used for other State or cultural purposes for the benefit of the Irish people, in keeping with its standing. Structured public access consistent with security and other requirements is facilitated by the OPW.
I commend the OPW on the tremendous work it has done at Farmleigh, for example in improving the access to the estate. The OPW has provided space for markets during the winter and cultural events, such as orchestra performances, during the summer. The facilities at Farmleigh are a marvellous addition to the facilities which are available to the people of the west Dublin region, the people of Dublin generally and the people of Ireland. I do not doubt that the Government invested wisely and prudently in Farmleigh, notwithstanding the objections which were made to the proposal at the time.
It is important to note, consistent with the purposes for which the Government acquired Farmleigh, that there are no surplus lands at Farmleigh. The estate grounds are set out as gardens, grazing areas for animals and car parking spaces, all of which are intensively used in a manner that is consistent with the Government's policy. The grounds are required for press centres, catering and marquees on particular State occasions, such as the EU day of welcomes on 1 May 2004.
The OPW carried out major refurbishments to the house between 2000 and 2001. The house and its grounds provide a unique venue for the accommodation of visiting dignitaries. The President of Hungary, the Emperor and Empress of Japan and the President of Serbia and Montenegro have stayed at Farmleigh House this year. Farmleigh's role as a heritage property for the enjoyment and education of the public is central to its function. The OPW rejuvenated Farmleigh in preparation for this century by making it suitable for its contemporary functions while maintaining its historical and cultural ambience.
Farmleigh's cultural programme, which commences in July and runs until October of each year, consistently attracts an average of 125,000 visitors per annum. The focus of the summer programme is on using the grounds at Farmleigh for educational and recreational purposes. Nature and art classes take place and music is performed in the grounds. The cattle, horses and donkeys which graze in the fields can be enjoyed by all. It is expected that by the end of 2005, approximately 500,000 visits will have been made to Farmleigh since it reopened in July 2001.
I mentioned at the outset that many facilities are available for burials in the Dublin 15 area. I agree with Senator Terry that it is clear that the growth in population in that area will necessitate the development of further facilities. It is a good idea to establish an all-party group to lead the search for such a facility, although I am not sure that it requires a motion in this House. I do not doubt that it is important that such facilities are provided. I will be delighted to work with Senator Terry and others, including local authority officials, to ensure that such facilities can be secured. I regret to say that the acquisition of lands at Farmleigh for the development of a cemetery is a non-runner.