Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Arts & Culture Seán Ó Fearghaíl TD has called on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys to take action to prevent the sale of paintings of artistic and historical importance by the Alfred Beit Foundation.

Deputy Ó Fearghaíl made the comments after raising the matter with the Minister in the Dáil. He called on Minister Humphreys to examine a proposal put forward by An Taisce to block the sale from proceeding while safeguarding the future of Russborough House.

“In recent days Minister Humphreys has expressed her disappointment regarding the decision by the Alfred Beit Foundation to proceed with the sale of paintings of artistic and historical importance at Russborough House. However it doesn’t seem much effort has been made to prevent the sale from proceeding” said Deputy Ó Fearghaíl.

“I raised this matter with the Minister in the Dáil and was told that she only became aware of the sale last month. However the Alfred Beit Foundation met with her predecessor in 2013 and the sale of the paintings was on the agenda.

“Action could have been taken over the last two years to prevent the need for this sale to take place. Unfortunately it seems the sale of these valuable paintings did not feature high on the agenda of either Minister Humphreys or her predecessor.

“The Minister needs to seriously examine proposals put forward by An Taisce which, if pursued, would prevent the sale of these paintings from occurring. The proposal put forward by An Taisce in April offers a common sense approach to overcoming this impasse. The future of Russborough House needs to be secured, but pillaging it of its artefacts only serves to undermine the future of the house in the long run.

“Under the proposal advanced by An Taisce the paintings and other objects of artistic and historical value held by the Alfred Beit Foundation would be permanently secured as part of Ireland’s cultural patrimony. A new partnership between the Alfred Beit Foundation, National Gallery of Ireland and the Irish Heritage Trust would also be established to ensure the long term upkeep of Russborough House. This would mean the sale of valuable historical items would no longer need to take place to fund the maintenance of the house.

“It is time for the Minister to wake up to the reality of the situation and recognise the artistic and historical significance of these paintings. It’s not good enough to say nothing can be done to prevent the sale when An Taisce has put forward a reasonable and workable solution. There is still time for the Minister to do the right thing and secure the valuable artefacts at Russborough House” concluded Deputy Ó Fearghaíl.