Former €7.3m US residence of Irish Ambassador was considered ‘very dated’ and ‘too small’

Internal documents state new $12m Washington DC mansion would project ‘positive image of Ireland’

The nine-bedroom mansion previously used as the long-time residence of the Irish Ambassador to the United States was deemed to be “too small” and “very dated”, prompting the State to buy a bigger property last year.

The former residence, a large redbrick property in Washington DC with 10 bathrooms and seven fireplaces, was put up for sale for $8 million (€7.3 million) in recent days. The property has not been used by the Irish Ambassador to the US since August 2022 due to a number of issues with the building.

The State recently spent $12 million to buy a larger nine-bed mansion at 2221 30th Street to accommodate the Ambassador. The new official residence had previously been valued as one of the most expensive properties for sale in the US capital when it was listed for $18.5 million in 2021.

Internal Department of Foreign Affairs documents detail some of the reasons why officials opted to move on from the former residence at 2244 S Street. The 10,846sq ft property was “very dated” and deemed to be “too small”, according to a November 2023 briefing document.


“Its failings are such that the current Ambassador has been accommodated since August 2022 in a leased premises,” the briefing stated.

A health-and-safety audit of the property also previously identified fire safety risks with the building.

The former residence, which has been owned by the State since 1965, was originally built for Frederic Delano, uncle of the former US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The 13,595sq ft property recently bought by the department had been leased for use as a temporary residence for the Ambassador for more than a year beforehand. The internal briefing said the decision to buy the mansion remained “clearly and unequivocally the preferred option”.

In a December 12th submission, the department sought final sign-off to purchase the building. The $12.25 million price negotiated represented “a significant reduction” on the $16.5 million it had been listed for a year earlier, it said.

The lease signed by the department included an agreement that 29 per cent of the rent paid could be taken off the price should the State decide to buy the property, which amounted to $160,000.

Officials said the decision to buy the mansion meant the department would have a “fit for purpose” and “future-proofed” residence for the Ambassador to the US. The mansion would be a “key foreign policy asset” that projected a “positive image of Ireland” in the US, the submission said.

The new residence had hosted a “wide range of functions and events” in the year it had been leased. It offered “clear scale and functionality advantages” over the former residence, officials wrote.

An internal briefing said the decision to buy the large property was “a significant investment to meet the ongoing and future requirements of the Irish diplomatic presence in Washington”. The records were released to The Irish Times following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The current Ambassador to the US, Geraldine Byrne Nason, took up the position in August 2022. Previously she had served as Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations, where she was heavily involved in the successful effort to win a seat on the UN Security Council.

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Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times