ALL visitors who turned up expectantly at the National Gallery only to find the doors firmly sealed were disappointed – but one American tourist was so let down she could scarcely speak.
Florida woman Molly Murphy had been relishing the chance to see one of the true jewels of the National collection – Vermeer's 'A Lady Writing a Letter With her Maid' (pictured).
The painting, part of the Beit collection, was famously stolen by the IRA in the 70s and again by Martin Cahill in the 80s.
Molly had hoped to soak up the details of the intimate little domestic scene painted by Vermeer in 1670.
"I'm so disappointed," she said, turning away.
Closing the gallery had been the decision of management rather than staff, insisted those on the picket line yesterday – though with 35 security attendants on strike, as well as four cleaning staff, it was difficult to see how it could possibly have remained open.
The row is centred on the loss of seven days' annual leave. And while the Gallery provides a sanctuary for visitors, security attendant Joe McEneaney from Ballyfermot – who has worked there for 30 years – says the atmosphere is "tense and horrendous" for workers.
Pay cuts of 14-18pc and now the loss of a large chunk of holidays have meant the "sense of goodwill is gone", he said.
Sean Rainbird, director of the National Gallery, called the strike action "regrettable" and apologised for any inconvenience the closure may cause.