Wednesday 22 November 2017

Russborough's priceless old masters are held in trust for the nation - don't sell them

The late Sir Alfred and Clementine Beit at Russborough House, in Co Wicklow
The late Sir Alfred and Clementine Beit at Russborough House, in Co Wicklow
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

W hat exactly does the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht do? Aside from launching books written by other people? According to a recent report, spoken Irish is diminishing in the Gaeltacht and, after months of appeals from heritage bodies, news of the disposal of paintings from Russborough House has hit the airwaves - when it reaches Joe Duffy, it has become national crisis.

The outcry centres on eight old master paintings, by Rubens, Guardi and Teniers, that were quietly shipped off to Christie's by the Alfred Beit Foundation. The Foundation is a group of trustees whose duty it is to preserve Russborough and its contents intact, for the benefit of the State. The sale of paintings is due to take place in July, so there is still time for a white knight to step in.

Unlike the banks that the Government nationalised with public money, and are supposedly now State-owned, Russborough was left in trust for the beneficiaries to enjoy the charitable bequest for the purposes of education in the arts - those beneficiaries are the Irish people and our visitors to these shores. So we cannot prevent the sale.

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