Saturday 16 December 2017

Cost of restoring fire-ravaged mansion to run into millions

Patricia McDonagh and Breda Heffernan

The cost of the blaze that damaged a historic house on Sunday night could run to millions, it emerged yesterday.

The west wing of Russborough House, near Blessington, Co Wicklow, was extensively damaged in the blaze.

Renovation works were ongoing at the stately home, which received €2m in state grants for conservation works in the five-year period up to 2007.

A substantial part of the funding went on the restoration of the roof, where the fire broke out.

"There was an inferno of red coming out of the roof. It looked like something out of Armageddon," said eyewitness James Ruttle.

The manager of the estate, which was formerly owned by Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit, was yesterday assessing the cost of the damage.

The roof collapsed in the blaze, with debris also causing serious damage to the first and ground floors.

Four units of the fire brigade from Naas, Kildare, Baltinglass and Dunlavin attended the blaze.

The estate's precious art collection, which has been targeted by criminal gangs, including 'The General' Martin Cahill, was untouched in the fire.

The only occupants when the fire broke out were some tenants who live in the adjacent courtyard.

The ground floor of the west wing had been used last week by a film crew to shoot Steven Sodebergh's spy-thriller 'Knockout'.

A spokeswoman for the film last night confirmed the crew had not been working in the attic space where the fire broke out.

Gardai refused to comment on the cause of the blaze as they continued a forensic examination of the scene. A spokesman said the incident was being treated as "suspicious".

Over the course of 28 years, the house has been raided four times. Cahill struck in 1986 and made off with 12 masterpieces, then valued at IR£30m.

Irish Independent

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