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Friday 29 August 2014

Say bye to 'Haughey Disgrace Express'

TOM SHIEL

Published 18/11/2012 | 05:00

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A TV interview conducted in this famous pub once dethroned Taoiseach Charles Haughey – but now Hell's Kitchen, which is crammed with railway memorabilia, has been shunted off the Irish pub landscape by recession, forever.

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The pub, in Castlerea, Co Roscommon, was the venue for the famous Nighthawks programme on RTE where disgraced Justice Minister Sean Doherty confessed that the then Taoiseach knew that he was illegally tapping the phones of journalists.

The rest, as they say, is history – Haughey resigned and Albert Reynolds was installed as Taoiseach in 1992.

Now locals, tourists and rail buffs especially are bemoaning the closure of the eccentrically named bar, which boasts an A55 diesel locomotive, the pride of the CIE post-steam fleet in the Fifties, in the heart of its lounge area.

Even after reducing the lease to a bargain €250 weekly, bar owner Sean Browne still cannot find any takers for the premises, such is the extent of the customer famine currently affecting pubs.

"We had no option but to close," a dismayed Sean, whose pub-cum-railway museum had achieved fame over the years, explained.

"It's harder to get customers. As well, the rates on business premises are extremely high. Pubs are just not getting a fair deal. It's a pity councils won't negotiate with pubs on the rates issue."

Despite the chill winds of the present economic climate, Sean Browne is hopeful somebody will yet lease or buy his landmark, unusual property, which also includes living accommodation.

But even if Hell's Kitchen never trades as a pub again, Sean, whose hoard is reckoned to be the finest collection of privately held railway memorabilia in Ireland, believes his 'museum' should be taken over by a state authority, such as Roscommon Co Council.

"Heritage material like this is so important," he pointed out. "It's vital we preserve and display it."

Sunday Independent

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