Heather Humphreys says ‘door still open’ to Beit trustees

Difference of opinion exists over what Ministers were told by the foundation in 2013

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys has said her department did not have the funds, estimated to be in the region of €12 million, necessary to buy the paintings. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys has said her department did not have the funds, estimated to be in the region of €12 million, necessary to buy the paintings. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Arts Heather Humphreys has said her “door is open” if the trustees who run Russborough House want to meet again over the sale of valuable paintings from the Beit collection.

The board of the Albert Beit Foundation met yesterday as controversy continues over the decision to place nine paintings with Christie’s to raise funds for the stately home.

The majority of board members remain in favour of selling the paintings, although Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Georgian Society, which are represented on the board, are opposed.

Ms Humphreys’s spokeswoman said: “She has made it clear that the door is open in case the foundation has a change of heart.”

The Minister outlined financial support previously provided in response to a parliamentary question from Renua Ireland deputy leader Billy Timmins.

Conservation works

Heritage Council

This week the Minister asked foundation representatives to cancel or delay the sale but was told such a move would result in a £1.4 million (€1.9 million) fee for breaking a contract with the auctioneers.

She also stressed that her department did not have the funds, estimated to be in the region of €12 million, necessary to buy the paintings.

In her response to the question, Ms Humphreys said she was aware the foundation held a meeting with her predecessor, Jimmy Deenihan, where the financial challenges facing the foundation were outlined.

The former minister of state with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Brian Hayes, who also met the foundation in 2013, insisted he was not told some of the Beit collection paintings would be sold should Government support not be forthcoming.

“I’m flabbergasted at the suggestion it was put to us in 2013 in some way that they would have to sell part of the art collection to keep Russborough House open.”

Slides the foundation says were shown to the ministers at meetings in April and September 2013 state Russborough would “run out of cash resources in 2014”.

The slides also state: “In order to generate additional capital, the foundation will need to dispose of some of its assets.”

The State was asked if it was interested in acquiring any of the assets or if there was any assistance the State could provide in facilitating others to acquire some of the assets, according to the foundation.

TDs’ letter

Andrew DoyleSimon HarrisAnne FerrisStephen DonnellyJudith Woodworth