ARTIST Robert Ballagh has said he is "ashamed" that tourists visiting Ireland this summer are finding galleries and museums closed due to budget cuts.
He has spoken out after being approached by US tourists who complained that they had been unable to see much of the culture which had brought them to Ireland.
"Can you imagine going to Amsterdam and finding Rembrandt's house closed? You wouldn't find something like this happening anywhere else in the world . . . I can tell you it makes me ashamed and profoundly depressed," Mr Ballagh told the Irish Independent.
The 65-year-old met the Americans on a train journey from Galway.
"Their attempts to soak up Irish cultural life had been unsuccessful to say the least. The first place they visited was the James Joyce Martello tower in Sandycove, Dublin, which was closed. Disappointed, they went to the home of George Bernard Shaw on Synge Street, which was also closed.
"They described most of the National Gallery as being closed, along with several rooms in the Huge Lane Gallery. I'm glad they didn't bother going out to the Museum Of Modern Art in Kilmainham because that's closed too. At the point I met them, they were returning from Galway where they had found the Nora Barnacle Museum closed too," he said.
Mr Ballagh said he has also been contacted by a Canadian tourist who had travelled to Ireland to view a portrait by him of late health minister Noel Browne in the National Gallery, only to find it was not currently on show.
"What really angers me is the hypocrisy of our political leaders, saying they are so proud of our cultural history, yet here they are closing it down. I know arts funding is not a big issue for people struggling to put food on the table but we are talking about the soul of the nation," he said.
A statement on the Discover Ireland website confirms that the Nora Barnacle House museum "is not open for the 2012 season".
Failte Ireland confirmed that both the James Joyce Martello Tower and the former home of George Bernard Shaw are both closed due to budget cuts and staffing. It said it is currently in advanced discussions with Dun-Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to facilitate the council taking over the operation, promotion and marketing of the Joyce tower and museum.
Contacted by the Irish Independent, the Irish Museum of Modern Art confirmed that their museum section is closed for renovation but that it has relocated to Earlsfort Terrace to show part of its collection, while an exhibition by Garrett Phelan runs in Kilmainham from Tuesday to Sundays.
The National Gallery confirmed "the old part of the gallery" is closed but confirmed that a selection of masterpieces are on display in two rooms along with an exhibition 'Face to Face'. It also said that it was undergoing a major refurbishment of the historic wings at Merrion Square which is scheduled to continue until 2015.
It said that with only limited space, it is not possible to display Robert Ballagh's portrait of Noel Browne, part of the National Portrait Collection.
The Hugh Lane Gallery confirmed that rooms have been closed due to "staff shortages".