MORE than €1.7m has been spent maintaining a vacant office building, that was abandoned by one of the country's largest state agencies, in a prime area of Dublin.

The Enterprise Ireland offices in Glasnevin have been lying unused since April 2008 when the organisation moved to an alternative location in Dublin.

The site was originally earmarked for affordable housing but it is understood the change in economic circumstances meant that was no longer feasible.

The Office of Public Works is trying to devise a suitable plan for the site, but an outright sale is unlikely in the current market conditions.

The Department of Enterprise said that the site was owned by Enterprise Ireland but that costs of at least €860,000 were being accrued annually.

The cost of maintaining the site includes local authority rates of €620,000, security costs of €240,000, electricity and gas bills of €120,000 and general maintenance costs of €20,000.

However, the department has insisted that money is being saved by moving all of the various Enterprise Ireland offices to a single site.

It said getting all employees into one office had been a "key strategic objective" since the agency was established in 1998.

The department said: "There are annual savings of approximately €3m, in addition to significant operational efficiencies, resulting from the Dublin HQ centralisation move to the East Point Business Park.

"From an operational perspective, occupying four separate locations in Dublin was sub-optimal especially for an agency mandated to provide a range of services and expertise.

"Having explored a number of possible solutions including the development of the Glasnevin site, it was decided that a single site office solution offered in the East Point Business Park was the most appropriate."

Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar said the building's present status was unacceptable. "It's extraordinary that the government is spending nearly €1m maintaining these vacant buildings, while it spends hundreds of millions renting office accommodation from private landlords," he said.

"If the government cannot sell the site it should start using the building and instead vacate privately-owned office accommodation."

The government pays more than €122m every year to property developers, private individuals and other companies for rental of offices. Among the biggest beneficiaries of the lease agreements – many of which run for up to 35 years and cannot be renegotiated – are developers Liam Carroll, Bernard McNamara and Jerry O'Reilly.