It has emerged that UCD has paid over €80 million to JJ Rhatigan & Co. contractors so far to finance the ongoing construction of student residences on campus. The €82,032,228.39 sum has been disclosed following a Freedom of Information request by Ken Foxe, Director of Right To Know, for the University’s accounts of invoices over €20,000 between November 2016 and March of this year.

JJ Rhatigan was contracted in 2018 to begin work on ‘Phase 1’ of the UCD Residential Master Plan which consists of three new buildings: accommodation blocks D and E and a new two-storey amenities building named the ‘Fulcrum Student Centre’. The former will see 924 new student bedrooms added to campus and the latter will provide a music and performance auditorium, gym, health and wellbeing centre, meeting rooms, restaurant, office space, retail units and 60 studio apartments. JJ Rhatigan has been contracted previously by UCD for refurbishments to Merville and Belgrove residences, construction of Roebuck student halls and the controversial University Club at O’Reilly Hall in which students are prohibited from entering.

The Plan itself originally faced criticism by then Students’ Union President Barry Murphy for prioritising revenue generation over housing more students because of its overly expensive design guaranteeing ensuites, desks and double beds to students. The Plan consists of three phases with a slated total budget of €300 million for its completion as stated in UCD’s Strategic Campus Development Plan 2016-2026.

Originally 3,006 new bedrooms were proposed under the Plan, but this figure was reduced to 2,178 following a planning review by An Bord Pleanála in 2018.

It is unclear at this time whether the plan is on track both financially and structurally as a result of COVID-19 disruptions and whether or not its rooms will be available to students for the upcoming Autumn semester. JJ Rhatigan’s website states that it expects Phase 1 residences to be completed by “Summer 2020” and that “works are progressing well on this busy, live campus”.

Additionally, their site lists a “€100 million value” for the project, but it does not specify whether this “value” refers to the contract’s value or the property’s value nor how this figure was arrived at. The College Tribune reached out to both JJ Rhatigan and UCD to provide an update on the progress of the construction, JJ Rhatigan’s €100 million valuation and to break down how the €82 million was expended, but no response has been received by the time of publication.

Rowan Kelleher – Reporter