Sunday 25 August 2019

Vanished: Almost two dozen pieces of art 'still missing' from Dail

State authorities still searching for artworks that vanished after the 2011 election clear-out of TDs

Seat of government: Leinster House
Seat of government: Leinster House
Robert Ballagh King's Inns print

Daniel McConnell

Almost two dozen works of art, including a Robert Ballagh piece, are still missing from Leinster House almost three years after they were first reported as lost, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

There are concerns that some may have been stolen. It is feared that others may have been moved amid the upheaval within Leinster House following the largest ever changeover of TDs following the 2011 General Election.

An official investigation as to the status of the missing artworks remains ongoing, according to the Office of Public Works (OPW), which has responsibility for managing the collection of more than 720 works of art.

Included in the 21 pieces of missing artworks are a Ballagh print entitled 'King's Inns Interior', and a valuable oil painting by Brett McEntaggart worth more than €2,300.

The details of the missing works are contained in information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

Speaking this weekend, both the OPW and the Houses of the Oireachtas have said an inventory process to find or account for the artworks is still "ongoing".

In a statement to the Sunday Independent, an OPW spokeswoman said: "I have made enquiries on your behalf and have been advised that OPW Art Management Office and Leinster House staff are currently working on the ongoing inventory process. No further information is available at this time."

The 21 artworks which are currently missing remain on the active art register and Leinster House personnel are continuing to trace their whereabouts, the OPW said.

More than 720 historic and contemporary artworks are on display throughout the 11 buildings that make up the Leinster House complex.

Sources within Leinster House have suggested that scores of pieces of artwork were moved during the major changeover of TDs following the 2011 General Election.

In total, 76 new TDs were elected in 2011 and took up their offices once the 31st Dail convened on March 9, all requiring accommodation.

A total of 45 TDs lost their seats and a further 36 retired, with all of those needing to vacate their Leinster House offices.

The Sunday Independent has established that the full collection includes 365 prints; 290 paintings; 24 sculptures; 21 drawings; 14 photographs; six "reproductions" and four pieces of textile art.

In 2012, the Sunday Independent first reported that 37 pieces of artwork were missing.

At the time, the OPW said an "inventory" was being conducted and was likely to be finalised within "two to three weeks".

"The Art Management Office is currently undertaking its routine inventory process and is therefore not in a position to confirm any works as being unaccounted for. This process should be completed in two or three weeks, at which time more information will be available," an OPW spokeswoman said at the time.

The State art collection "refers to works of art managed by the OPW located in State buildings and public spaces throughout Ireland and abroad.

"State buildings include all government offices, Aras an Uachtarain, Dublin Castle, Farmleigh, Leinster House, Government Buildings, the Four Courts and certain court facilities, garda stations, Irish embassies abroad, and certain cultural institutions."

Significant delays and confusion were experienced in the new Dail's first days and it seems from sources that artworks that were housed within Leinster House may be "unaccounted for", according to a senior OPW source.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section