herald

Monday 17 December 2018

'Sagging floors, basic rooms' made Aras unfit for royalty

Aras an Uachtarain was deemed unsuitable for Spanish and Italian state visits
Aras an Uachtarain was deemed unsuitable for Spanish and Italian state visits

Aras an Uachtarain was deemed unsuitable to accommodate the King and Queen of Spain during a State visit to Ireland because of sagging floors, small rooms and a basic bathroom.

The revelation came as papers released from the 1987 State Archive showed Department of Foreign Affairs staff conducted a detailed review of all suitable properties to accommodate King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.

The then Italian president Francesco Cossiga was also scheduled to pay a State visit to Ireland in 1987.

A confidential memo of February 26, 1986, revealed the results of an assessment of grand Irish houses close to Dublin as requested by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Assessed

"The survey was done primarily in the light of the forthcoming Spanish and Italian State visits," the memo said.

The properties assessed included Aras an Uachtarain, Farmleigh House, Luttrellstown and Straffan House.

The Department of Foreign Affairs recommended Farmleigh House for both visits.

"The Taoiseach agrees with the Department of Foreign Affairs' recommendation in regard to Farmleigh, which is the most suitable for the immediate needs of the Italian and Spanish visits," the memo said.

Lord Iveagh, who owned Farmleigh at the time, had agreed in principle to allow the 21-bedroom house to be used for such State visits.

In a detailed assessment of the various properties, Aras an Uachtarain was pointed out to be largely unsuitable.

The Aras has a Queen Victoria suite but, of its five other bedrooms, "the use of the largest of these would seem to be in doubt because the floor is sagging badly", the assessment added.

Staff of then president Patrick Hillery also had to quit another room because of a sagging floor, the memo stated.

One bathroom was described as "basic", while some other rooms were described as very small.

Immaculate

Both Luttrellstown and Farmleigh were described as being ideally suited for visiting dignitaries.

Meanwhile, Straffan House was also found to be very suitable for the visit but department officials were concerned about the additional distance from Dublin.

"The condition of the house and gardens is immaculate but the overriding impression is one of almost unreal sumptuousness," the Straffan report found.

Aras an Uachtarain was built in 1751, and there had been a number of additions to the house over the years, including the addition of an East Wing in 1849 for the State visit of Queen Victoria.

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