Failte throws a spanner in €1.5m model railway plan
A €1.5m bequest to turn a historic thatched house into a museum for a model railway is in danger of being derailed.
The north Co Dublin coastal community of Malahide wants the Fry Model Railway, which was previously displayed in Malahide Castle, to be returned to the town as a tourist attraction.
But tourism body Failte Ireland, which now owns the train collection after it took over Dublin Tourism, is in discussions with Bus Eireann about potentially putting the historic sets on display in Busaras.
The transport firm confirmed it was "currently considering its options".
Michael Gill, a spokesman for Malahide Community Forum, said resident farmer Michael Gaffney, who died at the age of 95 in January, had agreed to donate €1.5m toward restoring the 17th century listed-building Casino House to house the Fry Model Railway.
However, he stated they would lose the money to redevelop Casino House and create the tourism hub if the Fry Model Railway was not returned to Malahide.
"The bequest made by Michael Gaffney was the railway or nothing," Mr Gill said.
A group of Malahide residents, including businessman Michael Howard, former politician GV Wright, former Justice Minister Nora Owen and Matt McNulty, formerly of Dublin Tourism, came together last April with the intention of forming a trust to run the building.
Some €600,000 has been agreed with NAMA to purchase Casino House, and its remaining 1.9 acre grounds adjacent to Malahide Railway Station, after property developer Gerry Gannon originally paid IR£12m in 1999 for the then 6.5-acre site.
Mr Gill said the group intended to use the remaining €900,000 to redevelop Casino House and erect an extension to allow the model train sets to run in their entirety.
Mr Gill said they believed the Casino House would provide a link for tourists making their way from the railway station to the newly redeveloped grounds of Malahide Castle.
"It is seen as being generally part of the overall tourist offering for Malahide. There is no question of it being a profit-making venture. This is entirely for the community. There is no public cash around to buy a building like this," Mr Gill said.
Failte Ireland confirmed it was in "advanced discussions" on the best possible future use of the Fry Model Railway.
A spokeswoman said it hoped to reach agreement on it over the "coming weeks". The tourism body pointed out that any decision would involve the model railway being available to the public in its entirety.
A spokesman for Bus Eireann said the tourism body felt that locating the model railway in a "city centre location such as Busaras" near inter-city bus and rail services would "increase patronage of the exhibit".
The Fry Model Railway was removed from the Malahide Castle as part of a €7m redevelopment being carried out by Fingal County Council.