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Sir John Bourn, head of the National Audit Office, told Parliament today that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had sold the British Ambassador’s official Residence on the Glencairn estate in Dublin and spent £6.4 million on purchasing Marlay Grange as a replacement. Having spent a further £0.7 million on refurbishing the property it then decided to re-purchase the Residence at Glencairn and sell Marlay Grange.

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Successive British Ambassadors to the Republic of Ireland had resided in the official Residence on the Glencairn Estate since the 1950s. The Department had increasing concerns about the security of the Residence arising from difficulty in policing a large estate of some 34 acres, an increase in local building developments and unsafe road access and increasingly heavy traffic between the Residence and the Embassy, seven miles away. The Department took these factors into account, decided to cash in on the estate’s unrealised economic potential and sold the entire Glencairn estate, including the Residence, for £24 million in April 1999.

However, the Department found it difficult to find a suitable replacement Residence and it wasn’t until June 2000 that it purchased Marley Grange. The Ambassador continued to occupy Glencairn while a start was made on refurbishing Marlay Grange. The Department had carried out a cost appraisal in January 2000 and found that there was a cost advantage in buying back the Glencairn Residence rather than purchasing Marley Grange. But when qualititative weightings were taken into account, especially those for security, Marlay Grange was considered the best option. Nearly three years later, a fresh appraisal concluded that the security situation had improved significantly and that it would now best suit the Department’s needs to re-purchase the Glencairn Residence and six acres of grounds and sell Marlay Grange.

"I applaud the Department’s efforts to rationalise its estate when there are good reasons for doing so and to release funds for new projects. In that sense the sale of most of the Glencairn estate was good business. But the Department also made two serious mistakes. It embarked on the sale of Glencairn without real knowledge of the likelihood of being able to find a suitable replacement Residence. And the purchase of Marlay Grange should not have gone ahead unless the owners had first agreed to a full survey of the general condition of the property.”

Sir John Bourn


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