For most of its hundred-year life, the Government Buildings complex on Upper Merrion Street housed science and engineering research and education alongside the exercise of government. The complex was originally designed to accommodate the Royal College of Science for Ireland as well as government activities transferred from London to Dublin. By the mid-1920s the College had been absorbed into University College Dublin (UCD), and the complex housed the headquarters of government of an independent Ireland.
As the emerging State asserted its independence, the engineers and scientists of UCD in Merrion Street were to the forefront in the practical expression of that independence. This commemorative publication records some examples of their research, such as the development of replacements for imported coal in the 1930s and of penicillin from sea moss in the 1940s. As the country’s industrial ambitions grew, so too did the scale and scope of the research in Merrion Street, and the scientists and engineers educated there played a vital role in creating a technologically-advanced Irish economy.
At the same time, and within the same complex of buildings, politicians and administrators worked to develop and build the mechanisms of government. The Departments of the Taoiseach and Finance and the Attorney General’s Office maintain their institutional presence in the complex to this day, with other Departments, such as Justice and Agriculture, having also been housed there at times. All the formal decisions of the State have been taken in the council chamber in the north block, which has been the seat of government since 1922.
This connection between the State and the University has continued and thrived over the decades. The contributions made by scholars, academics, science and engineering graduates, administrators and politicians who have graced the portals of this complex in their myriad ways are many and varied. Some are well known and recorded in history; others are not yet written about. All deserve acknowledgement.
Within the Merrion Street complex, generations of scholars and students studied, created, invented and adapted while generations of political leaders and officials determined the policies that have shaped modern Ireland. This commemorative centenary publication is an acknowledgement of the contribution all have made in and to The Building of the State.