A clamour of protest has been raised by heritage groups and others after the Irish government decided not to buy Lissadell House, one of the country's finest great houses.
The house, which is associated with the poet W B Yeats and other historical figures, has been bought by a private buyer after more than a century and a half in the ownership of an Anglo-Irish family. Since the house in Balinfull, Co Sligo, came on the market several months ago, the government has come under pressure to buy it for less than €4m (£2.8m).
The new owners, whose names are not known, may allow the public into the house, but critics say the property should have been acquired for the nation.
In addition to Yeats, who visited Lissadell and wrote about it, interest centres on two rebellious sisters from the Gore-Booth family, its former owners.
Constance Gore-Booth became a radical republican revolutionary, taking part in the 1916 rebellion. She was reprieved from a death sentence and became the first woman elected to the House of Commons. Her sister Eva was a trade union activist and suffragette. The government decided not to buy the house because restoration would cost up to €30m, with annual maintenance costs of €500,000. Local pressure groups said visitors would help pay for the work.
The owners, Sir Josslyn and Lady Jane Gore-Booth, have said that they are disappointed by the government's decision. The Sinn Fein Mayor of Sligo, Sean MacManus, said: "I am deeply disappointed that this historic property, so closely associated with a heroine of 1916, is to remain in private ownership."
Those pressing for public purchase included 20 female academics who said that Lissadell House could have become a centre dedicated to the history of Irish women.Reuse content