State lacks funds to buy Russborough paintings
The State will not step in to buy any of the Russborough House old master paintings for the nation when they are auctioned this summer, as it does not have the funds.
Owners of Russborough House, the Alfred Beit Foundation (ABF), have been criticised by board members for auctioning the nine old master paintings from the Alfred Beit collection, with the Irish Georgian Society (IGS) removing its member from the board in protest.
The IGS, the Royal Dublin Society and an Táisce have called on the Government to intervene in order to prevent the sale of the paintings, which are to be auctioned at Christie's in London on July 9.
"As it has supported Russborough in the past through the central involvement of the National Gallery of Ireland, and through grant aid from the Heritage Council and from Fáilte Ireland, the State has a stake in the future of the house and its magnificent collection," read a joint statement.
The paintings, some of which have been the subject of infamous heists, are expected to raise up to €12m for the upkeep of Russborough House.
Arts Minister Heather Humphreys was not informed of the decision to auction the works until after the export licence was granted by the National Gallery of Ireland, according to her spokesperson.
However, even if they were consulted, the department does not have the funds to buy the old masters.
"The department does not have the discretionary funding which would be required to buy the paintings," said the spokesperson.