Man arrested over theft of State-owned artworks

Suspect in 40s held by gardaí in Shannon area after theft last year

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said: “As this is an active investigation, I must be cautious in any comment I make in order not to impact on the investigation that is under way.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said: “As this is an active investigation, I must be cautious in any comment I make in order not to impact on the investigation that is under way.” Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thu, Apr 25, 2013, 16:08

A man has been arrested in relation to the theft of State-owned paintings from the Department of Arts earlier this year.

The art works and other items were taken from a storage facility in Limerick, gardaí said in a statement.

The man in his 40s was arrested in the Shannon area. He was taken to Shannon Garda station where he is being held under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1984.

“No further information will be made available at this time as further planned searches are being carried out in the Limerick area following this arrest,” gardaí said in a statement. Gardaí from Shannon, Naas and the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation were involved in the arrest.

It is understood the arrest relates to an art work theft discovered last year. The department only became aware of the theft when paintings from the collection were spotted for sale in an auction last October. It is not known how or when they were stolen.

Minister for Arts Jimmy Deenihan said: “As this is an active investigation, I must be cautious in any comment I make in order not to impact on the investigation that is under way.

“This is an extremely serious matter, and I have instructed my department to give every possible assistance to An Garda Síochána in order to help return these items to the State.

“On learning of the loss of items I immediately instructed that a number of actions take place within my Department, all of which have been completed, and I also receive frequent updates on all developments in this matter.”

Collection moved

In February last a collection of State-owned art and antiques was moved to the National Museum of Ireland’s storage facilities for safe-keeping following the revelation that some items had been stolen.

The Minister requested that officials carry out an inventory of “all artwork, furniture and other items in storage” and “a physical check on all of these items”.

In a statement last February the department confirmed the “loss of a number of items” but declined to provide any details and said “inventory details are not being released while an active Garda investigation is under way”.

The collection consists of art and antiques from Killarney House, in the grounds of the National Park in Co Kerry, the ancestral home of the earls of Kenmare which was acquired by the State over a decade ago. Because the house required conservation work, the contents were put into storage.

It was intended that the art and antiques would eventually be returned to the house and go on public display. However, the planned restoration of the house has been repeatedly delayed and no date has yet been announced for its opening.

Killarney House is known to have been furnished with a significant collection of paintings, antique furniture, china, silver and other fine art collectibles numbering hundreds of items.