Government Buildings since 1991
The inauguration of the newly-refurbished Government Buildings in 1991 reflected the changing nature of government in modern Ireland. There was, and is, a growing need for formal public spaces identified with government that can be used for high-level meetings, press conferences and formal photo opportunities. Politics in Ireland became more presidential. The office of the Taoiseach and its staff played an increasing role in key strategic aspects of policy, especially on Northern Ireland, Europe and high-level partnership talks on economic and social questions. The new meeting rooms at Government Buildings hosted critical meetings in the Northern Ireland peace process, such as the 1994 meeting between then Taoiseach Albert Reynolds, SDLP leader John Hume and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams. Visits by unionist leaders such as Ian Paisley and David Trimble also reflected the changed political environment and the critical role that successive Taoisigh and their staff played in the peace process. Bilateral meetings between heads of government also became much more common. British prime ministers John Major, Tony Blair and David Cameron all visited Government Buildings, as did US president Bill Clinton and many other national leaders. In May 2011 Queen Elizabeth II visited the building opened by her grandfather almost a century before.
Developments in communications and news media, such as the emergence of twenty-four news stations and mobile broadcasting, created a new demand for visual images as backdrops for news reports, and Government Buildings, with its iconic dome and wrought-iron gates, expressed the spirit of a self-confident country. Over the past two decades they have provided a distinctive and distinguished setting, viewed throughout the world, for journalists covering events such as key political meetings relating to Northern Ireland, visits by international statesmen such as Nelson Mandela and, more ominously, the November 2010 negotiations with the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund that resulted in the financial bailout for the Irish economy.
Government Buildings have been at the heart of Irish politics throughout the lifetime of the state, the site of all major decisions taken by the government. While many would regard Cabinet decisions relating to the post-2008 banking and economic crisis as the most challenging to confront an Irish government, they should be set against the decisions that had to be taken by the provisional government of 1922, which faced civil war and the real fear that the new state would not survive. Decisions taken throughout this great building, which for so long echoed to the sounds of scientists, engineers and their students pursuing their journeys of innovation and discovery, will continue to shape the destiny of Ireland.