Houses of the Oireachtas
During the COVID-19 pandemic, The CCD was called upon to host sittings of the Houses of the Oireachtas (the Irish Parliament), which temporarily moved from Leinster House to The CCD for the first time in almost 100 years.
Delegates: 160 approx.
Client: Houses of the Oireachtas Service
Event: The Houses of the Oireachtas
Type: Special Events
Date: June 2020 to July 2021
Days: 1-2 days weekly until April 2021, 3 days weekly after April 2021.
Due to public health restrictions put in place by the Irish government in the fight against COVID-19, the Irish Parliament needed to relocate sittings of the Houses of the Oireachtas (the Dáil and Seanad) to a larger premise in order for all Members to attend and vote and yet adhere to social distancing requirements.
The client’s main goal was to allow full attendance in the Dáil Chamber for the election of the new Irish Taoiseach, while adhering to social distance guidelines.
Prior to the event taking place, The Convention Centre Dublin (The CCD) advised on available spaces, capacities and provided socially distanced plans showing how the event could take place safely. The client also required technical support and hospitality options for the event, while ensuring the venue was compliant with COVID-19 regulations and guidelines.
The CCD was called upon to host a different type of gathering to its usual business and played host to the Houses of the Oireachtas Service from June 2020. As this was one of the few times that the Irish Dáil and Seanad sat outside of Kildare Street in almost 100 years, it was an historic and important occasion for The CCD. Before the event took place, socially distanced floor plans and reduced capacities were created by The CCD teams, tailoring specific layouts and liaising with the Office of Public Works on any additional furniture requirements.
Planning the event
As this event took place during a country-wide lockdown and it was the first event that The CCD held during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was much planning and discussion on how to best manage social distancing on site. Procedures were put in place ahead of the event with the introduction of face masks, signage, and changes to the layout of rooms and furniture, combined with increased sanitisation of all spaces. Back-to-work procedures were implemented ahead of employees returning to the building, including online training and ongoing communications as guidelines and restrictions changed.
In advance of the event, both The CCD and the client reviewed the full building to determine what COVID-19 and additional health and safety signage was needed. Once a plan was agreed, all signage was created in durable materials, ensuring it would last for the period that events were taking place. Signage included bilingual printed directional floor and wall signage, social distance reminders, digital room signage and other health and safety guidelines which was to be followed.
During the planning phase, The CCD teams and the client considered various room setups, which included redrawing floor plans, moving furniture and pulling power, to ensure optimum event set-ups were achieved while maintaining the health and safety of all visitors and staff.
Running the live events
The initial event took place on the 27 June, with the election of the 15th Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD. The venue continued to be used by the Houses of the Oireachtas in June and July before the Houses adjourned for recess. The annual Budget Statement also occurred in The CCD on 13 October.
The Auditorium was used for live televised Dáil and Seanad sittings. To allow for social distancing, rows of seats were blocked off and to maintain a one-way system, members of the Houses of the Oireachtas were instructed on entry and exit doors of the Auditorium. The Forum was used for hot desks and hospitality, with halls in use for parliamentary party meetings. The remaining meeting rooms were used as offices for smaller parliamentary parties and groups, with Level 5 foyer reserved for accredited press. All furniture was placed two metres apart to allow for social distancing. Some sinks and toilet facilities were blocked off and signs were placed on each of the doors reminding users to practice social distancing and good hand-washing etiquette while in bathrooms.
Catering facilities were available throughout the event, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings available as well as hot drinks and snacks. In line with guidelines, only contactless payment was accepted to eliminate handling of cash. Floor signage was used to promote social distancing when queuing, along with Perspex screens, spaced out catering units, hand sanitiser points and socially distanced tables and chairs, which were cleaned after each use.
CCD Cleaning carried out extensive cleaning throughout each event, with replenishment of all hand sanitising units, hourly sanitisation of all red touch points throughout the building, and sanitisation of meeting rooms and desks during intervals. The CCD also invested in the latest technology in sanitisation, an Eco Static sanitiser machine. This was used in the Auditorium during the Dáil and Seanad sitting intervals when the room was vacated for at least one hour, as well as on all surfaces at the end of each day.
The CCD uses a fresh air ventilation system, meaning that all return air is discharged from the building to the atmosphere, with no recirculated air used.
This event was a real team effort and allowed The CCD to showcase their experience and their capability in adapting to the changing environment, delivering safe physical events for the country’s parliament.
All departments worked together to make the event a success. CCD Technical facilitated live streaming to all rooms, live TV broadcast and installation of push-to-talk mics in the Chamber, while CCD Security drafted an access plan in tandem with An Garda Síochána. The CCD Health and Safety Manager worked together with the Facilities team, enhancing procedures to ensure the building was COVID-19 compliant, as CCD Events drafted new socially distant plans and capacities for each space. CCD Hospitality reviewed procedures to provide COVID-19 compliant catering options and the Marketing team planned and delivered a COVID-19 compliant signage plan along with an information brochure for members.
“The CCD team were very professional, flexible and effectively organised when assisting with the planning of sittings of The Houses of The Oireachtas. With the current situation, the safety of everyone attending was extremely important and the team at The CCD recognised this. They put together a comprehensive, yet flexible COVID-19 plan, which we could adapt and change as the situation evolved. Everyone was so well prepared and ready and willing to deliver on all of our requirements. It has been a pleasure working with the team at The CCD. Charles Hearne, Principal Officer, Houses of the Oireachtas Service