A couple of weeks ago, I went to Brussels to have a look at some of the European institutions’ open day events (mostly I stayed with the European Commission). You had to queue to get in but mostly, the queues went quickly and there was a lot to see and visit. One of the things which struck me is that perhaps, we could look at doing something like this in Ireland. We sort of do already but I don’t think many Irish people seriously buy into it.
On Saturdays, if you are so minded, you can go to the National Gallery, pick up a ticket and go and have a tour of Government Buildings and the Taoiseach’s Office. It wasn’t said, but if I remember rightly, those tours were instigated by Albert Reynolds when he was Taoiseach. Basically, you get an introduction and brief history of the building, a look at some of the noteworthy art pieces, a tour of the Taoiseach’s Office and a visit to the Cabinet Room. When I did it, only 8 people were on the tour and apart from the tour guide, I was the only Irish person.
Something I discovered during the week is that when the Dáil is not sitting, on weekdays, you can go to Leinster House for a tour. There are tours at 10.30 and 2.30 on non-sitting days. You need to go to the Kildare Street entrance 15 minutes ahead of tour time. I plan to do that some time soon as one of the things which struck me when I did the Government Buildings tour was that a similar tour of Leinster House would be desirable. But again, I am not sure how many people take up this opportunity. It is something which might be interesting to know.
That aside, however, I wonder what the impact on citizen political engagement might be if there was more access to the governing institutions; not just the Dail and Government buildings, but the various county councils and city halls as well.