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Tuesday 2 September 2014

For hire: Minister's tax-relief mansion

Weddings held at stately pile but no change in rules

Fionnan Sheahan and Eimear Ni Bhraonain

Published 27/04/2011 | 05:00

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Laughton House in Moneygall, Co Offaly contains five reception rooms and 13 bedrooms

HEALTH Minister James Reilly and his wife are hiring out their stately home for weddings and christenings while also receiving tax breaks for maintaining it.

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And last night, it emerged that Finance Minister Michael Noonan has no immediate plans to change the tax relief for owners of historic mansions.

Dublin North TD Mr Reilly and his wife, Dorothy, who own Laughton House in Moneygall, Co Offaly, are among the wealthy business people who take advantage of the tax break to maintain their residences.

The relief is given to help cover maintenance and restoration costs for significant buildings and gardens. It was intended to help owners meet costs, remain in the houses and prevent them becoming derelict.

A spokesman for the Department of Finance said all reliefs were subject to ongoing pre-budget reviews.

The rules for the tax relief were tightened up last year. A review conducted by the Department of Finance five years ago concluded that keeping the scheme "seems the most reasonable option".

Tightened

"The cost is low. To abolish or reduce the scope of the relief would go against the Government's policy of safeguarding Ireland's heritage," it said.

The relief is subject to the high earner's restriction, meaning the amount to be written off is capped. This restriction was introduced for the 2007 tax year.

But it was further tightened in Budget 2010 and Finance Act 2010 so that the owners are subject to the restriction where they claim €80,000 or more in certain tax reliefs.

The full restriction applies where adjusted income reaches €400,000 and at this point, the individual pays a minimum effective income tax rate of 30pc. The rate gradually increases as income rises between the €125,000 and €400,000 thresholds.

Mr Reilly and his wife receive tax breaks for opening Laughton House to the public at certain times of the year.

However, the Irish Independent understands that the couple also hire out the 18th-century mansion for private functions such as small weddings and baptisms.

Laughton House, located on the outskirts of President Barack Obama's ancestral village, was built in 1777. It was reconstructed by the Pain brothers in the early 19th century.

Originally the house faced north but the brothers changed it around to face south so the sun fills the drawing and dining rooms.

The dining rooms are a spectacular location for small weddings, according to one man who has attended functions. The man, who did not wish to be named, described the house as "beautiful" and "very authentic". There is also a courtyard and gardens which make the house a favourite location for photographs.

"It has some very fine paintings and artworks. It is a really fabulous place. I've been at receptions and the dining room caters for up to 30 people or so," he added.

Mr Reilly, who is a successful businessman, opens the doors to the public from May 1-August 31, Monday to Saturday, between 11am to 3pm.

His wife Dorothy's name is listed on websites for bookings to view the property. There is a fee of €5 for adults and €3 for pensioners, students and children to tour the house.

Classical

The Pain brothers' work is described as "classical". "The house has very fine detailing," the national inventory of architectural heritage states.

The house has five reception rooms, a drawing room with three bay windows, a library with built-in mahogany bookcases, a dining room, a sitting room and a billiard room.

There are 13 bedrooms, three bathrooms and two shower rooms. The basement houses the old kitchen, servants' hall, ironing room and wine cellar.

There is a separate staff apartment. A new kitchen was installed in the house in 1984.

It is not known how much the Reillys charge for private functions, very few of which have been held.

Irish Independent

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