By Christiaan Feehan, Event Manager
Did you know the Hibernia Conference Centre is for the most part a subterranean complex? It’s also one of the more modern additions to the upper courtyard in Dublin Castle, constructed as it was in the late 1980s in preparation for Ireland’s 1990 European presidency.
The Hibernia Rooftop Garden is planted on top of the main conference hall. So while the leaders of Europe convened to discuss global matters, those not in the room could enjoy tranquillity and privacy in this walled garden. The focal point of the garden is the John Hughes sculpture Monument to Queen Victoria: Victory (1908). Here, Erin is seen tending to a dying soldier while her other arm rests on an Irish harp. The garden hasn’t been open to the public for a number of years, but following recent work, it’s now included with bookings of the Hibernia Conference Centre and offers a pretty unique spot for al fresco catering, or just a bit of peace and quiet.
The European presidencies were significant undertakings for member states. They required facilities to meet the exacting demands of accommodating the Heads of Government of all EU countries and the ability within those facilities to provide simultaneous interpretation into any of what were then nine official languages (it’s worth noting that today there are twenty-four official languages; Irish was not added until 2007, though as a ‘Treaty Language’ it has always been possible to correspond with any EU institution in Irish). The remit of the presidencies changed with the Treaty of Lisbon, and Heads of Government, for the most part, no longer attend events associated with them. Not the case back in 1990, and so a state-of-the-art facility, designed by the Office of Public Works, opened in 1989. The EU presidencies have all had their legacies, visit any of our conference venues and you’ll find facilities or equipment that remain from those large scale events: the Hibernia Conference Centre from 1990, a suite of mobile interpretation booths from 2004 (still used today) and the Printworks Events Centre from 2013. Our next presidency is in 2026 (it takes quite a while to rotate through the now twenty-eight member states!), so we have a bit of a wait to see what upgrades that one will result in!
It isn’t just EU presidencies that result in improvements to our facilities. ‘Face lifts’ are also common for important visitors. The most recent of note is the State Dinner for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (it’s not often a State Dinner is actually held in the Castle, most of the recent ones have been in Áras an Uachtaráin). For her dinner in the Castle a special set of Newbridge Silver was purchased to augment the set we already had (which wasn’t complete to dine 212). It’s a rather beautiful dinner set, but I’m afraid we only use it for State dinners, though believe it or not the Sky horror series Penny Dreadful created a café set in the Upper Courtyard and the cutlery was the same Newbridge set we have! Life imitating art, or maybe art imitating life?! You can see it displayed in the Portrait Gallery if you visit Dublin Castle.
It is possible to hire a venue within the Castle complex for special events – click here to find out more.