herald

Saturday 17 November 2018

Despite spending tens of millions, how Farmleigh could be left absolutely bare

The country's most extravagant guesthouse is in danger of being left bare when the lease for the contents of Farmleigh House runs out in March.

The Government is currently in talks with the Guinness family about the contents of Farmleigh, which were not bought outright by the State when it purchased the stately home.

While the State bought and refurbished the mansion, at enormous cost to the taxpayer, to provide luxury accommodation for visiting dignitaries, it does not own many of the fixtures and fittings.

They are simply on loan to the Office of Public Works (OPW) by the Guinness family. The OPW is now in negotiations to establish a new agreement, which it hopes will see the contents retained at the house for a further 10 years.

A spokesman for the OPW said: "[The contents were loaned for] 10 years from 1999, extended until March 2010."

The State spent around €52m by the time renovations were completed on Farmleigh House, and the contents are still not State property since they were loaned to the OPW at "no additional cost".

The spokesman refused to outline what contents are included in the loan agreement, and added that the Government has not had any opportunity to buy them.

"The contents were never intended for sale, it was always a loan agreement.

Adamant

"Under the terms of the agreement, the commissioners are precluded from disclosing details of the contents to third parties without the prior knowledge of the executors."

The OPW is adamant that even if they do not gain access to the contents after March, the functions of Farmleigh will not change.

"We don't envisage any change in the role or the usage of Farmleigh even if the loan agreement cannot be extended," he said.

However, it is hopeful that another 10-year agreement will be reached with their owner, the fourth Earl Arthur Edward Rory Guinness.

The spokesman said: "I honestly couldn't say what length it will be. Hopefully it'll be the same as last time. Negotiations are ongoing with the Guinness family."

The OPW maintains that Farmleigh House is much more than just a guesthouse for VIPs, since the mansion is also a tourist attraction.

hnews@herald.ie

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