Lord seeks return of Dromoland portraits


LORD INCHIQUIN is to ask the High Court today to direct the return to him of 37 ancestral portraits that have hung in Dromoland Castle, Co Clare, for decades before and since it became a hotel.

Frank Callanan SC, counsel for Conor O’Brien, the 18th Baron Inchiquin, said the defendant, Dromoland Castle Holdings Ltd, had refused to return them until it had reproductions of them either painted or copied.

Jonathan Newman, counsel for the hotel owners, said if Mr Callanan succeeded in obtaining a court order for the return of the portraits before they were copied it would be a very serious matter from the point of view of the hotel.

Mr Newman said Lord Inchiquin was also asking the court for an order restraining reproduction of the paintings, which had hung in Dromoland Castle Hotel for well in excess of 50 years.

Mr Callanan said Lord Inchiquin, who had a buyer for the paintings, had demanded their return and had initiated court proceedings in late July last.

He said the hotel’s position was that it would return the paintings once it had completed the making of copies of the portraits.

There was nothing in the licence agreement for their retention in the hotel permitting reproduction of them.

When asked by Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe what was the urgency of the restraining order to allow them be heard during a vacation sitting of the court, Mr Callanan said reproduction of the portraits would significantly diminish their value.

He said Lord Inchiquin had a buyer for the portraits and wished to retrieve them.

Another ground for urgency related to the assertion of the hotel that it was entitled either to have copies painted or photographed and display them irrespective of the licence agreement.

Mr Newman said reproductions of some of the paintings had been hanging on the walls of Dromoland Castle for the last 10 years. They were so old that not even a case for copyright could be made. No copyright had ever existed in the first place.

Mr Callanan said Lord Inchiquin’s application had nothing to do with copyright.

He had trusted the defendant with his ancestral portraits and wanted them back. Dromoland Castle Hotel Holdings had no right to reproduce them.

Mr Justice O’Keeffe, who had an overly extended vacation list yesterday, said he would call the case at today’s sitting of the court.