THE state's €52m B&B, Farmleigh House, has hosted just one overseas delegation this year, it has emerged.

The government mansion was bought and refurbished at enormous cost to the taxpayer for the purposes of providing luxury accommodation for visiting dignitaries.

However, this year, Farmleigh House has played host to just one such party – a 19-strong group which visited with the Tanzanian prime minister Mizengo Pinda.

The delegation stayed for a total of three nights, the Office of Public Works (OPW) said.

Running costs for the
government home are in the order of €3m a year with an estimated €1.2m spent already in 2009.

Costs for the Tanzanian state visit are not included in that figure. The bill, which is thought to be in the region of €15,000, was paid by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

A statement from the OPW said: "The annual cost of running Farmleigh House is approximately €3m. This covers the cost to the OPW of operating and maintaining the property.

"Additional expenditure is borne by other departments – principally the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Taoiseach – in relation to the hospitality and other costs associated with state visits and other high-level or government meetings... Security costs associated with state visits are borne by An Garda Síochána."

The OPW said Farmleigh House was much more than just a guesthouse for VIPs and said the mansion had become a tourist attraction in its own right.

It said: "In addition to the cost of running Farmleigh as the premier guest facility for visiting heads of state, the expenditure by the OPW in each year supported other significant activity at Farmleigh in relation to its use as a venue for high-level meetings and also the very successful public-access and event programme.

"In 2008, there were 103 high-level meetings at Farmleigh attended by 5,900 delegates and almost 200,000 people attended the various free public events held on the estate over the course of the year."

When Farmleigh House first came on the market, its asking price was €19m. By the time the government actually bought it, the price had risen to €28m, while a further €24m had to be spent on restoration.

The house contains six reception rooms, 20 bedrooms, 14 bathrooms, a ballroom, a swimming pool and a landing pad for helicopters.