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Friday 23 February 2018

Heritage homes mustopen longer

Fionnan Sheahan and Edel O'Connell

Health Minister James Reilly's stately home will be open to the public for an extra six days this year after a tax change by Cabinet colleague Finance Minister Michael Noonan.

Dr Reilly's Loughton House in Co Offaly is among the 200 heritage homes getting tax relief to help pay for the upkeep of the property.

Homes availing of significant buildings and gardens tax relief will now have to open to the public for National Heritage Week each year.

This year, National Heritage Week runs from August 18 to 26.

The tax relief is granted for spending on the maintenance and restoration of buildings and gardens.

There are already guidelines in place for providing "reasonable access" to the public on at least 60 days a year for a minimum of four hours per open day.

Mr Noonan is putting it into law that these properties will also have to be open during National Heritage Week each year.

Loughton House is located just outside Moneygall, Co Offaly -- the ancestral village of US President Barack Obama.

The house is listed in the name of Dr Reilly's wife, Dorothy, but the minister declared the 150 acres of farming and woodland at the house in his TDs Register of Interests.

According to Failte Ireland's list of houses getting the tax relief, the open days this year for Loughton House are from June 1 to August 20, excluding Sundays -- a total of 69 days, nine more than the minimum required.

The house is open for four hours -- the minimum opening time required -- from 11am to 3pm at a price of €5 for an adult and €3 for a pension, student or child.

Due to Mr Noonan's changes, heritage homes will have to remain open until August 26. Last night, Mrs Reilly said opening for National Heritage Week would "not be a problem".

"My home and gardens are always open to the public from June 1 to the end of August, so as Heritage Week runs in August this will not be an issue.

"I also open the house at many other times during the year when requested by various archeological and historical societies . . . this will not be a problem," she said.

Former Labour Party deputy leader and junior minister Liz McManus also receives tax relief for her home on Martello Terrace in Bray, Co Wicklow.

She said she was delighted to hear homes would have to open for Heritage Week and was looking forward to it.

"I open the house as much as I can whenever I am here, so it should not be an issue. I would have no problem with this at all," she said.

Public relations guru Terry Prone also welcomed the development as she owns the Martello Tower at Portrane in Co Dublin.

"I am addicted to showing people around my little tower, I practically go out to the street and drag them in so I would be more than happy to show people around during Heritage Week, I am looking forward to it," she said.

Mr Noonan has inserted a section in Finance Bill 2012 stipulating that for any future spending on significant buildings and gardens to qualify for tax relief, the relevant property will have to be open for public visits during National Heritage Week "as part of their minimum required number of opening days".

Irish Independent

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