I see the curse of Russborough House has struck yet again. In the latest calamity for this grand mansion, it was hit by a mysterious blaze on Sunday that caused millions of euro worth of damage.
Luckily, the priceless and irreplaceable art collection bequeathed to the State by Sir Alfred and Lady Beit escaped undamaged.
During my years in An Garda Siochana, I have seen several disasters at this famous house. In the early 1970s, at the height of the Troubles, the English heiress-turned freedom fighter Rose Dugdale led a raid on the house and got away with a number of paintings. They were subsequently recovered.
I myself have good cause to remember the last raid, carried out by the notorious 'General' Martin Cahill in 1986. He knew Russborough contained one of the world's finest private art collections so he and his gang neutralised the alarm system and snatched 18 paintings in less than 10 minutes, including a Vermeer, a Goya, a Gainsborough and three Rubens. The collection was considered to be worth about €50m.
I was involved in the investigation, and thankfully all the paintings were recovered.
Yet the curse of Russborough House struck Cahill, who ruefully commented to one of his henchmen that he had no luck with those paintings. His efforts to sell them failed, and during that process his association with loyalist paramilitaries led to his death at the hands of the Provisional IRA in 1994.