Government ‘should have purchased’ Lissadell

THE Government was roundly criticised by local politicians yesterday for its failure to buy Lissadell House, the Sligo stately home where Countess Markievicz and her sister, poet Eva Gore Booth, spent their formative years.

The historic pile has been bought by an Irish couple who insisted on a confidentiality clause that prevented them being identified. Despite the criticism, the head of a Markievicz remembrance committee said he was happy it was remaining in Irish hands.

Joe McGowan, chairman of the Markievicz Committee and author of an autobiography on the first woman elected to a Dáil seat, claimed the sale of the property had been turned in to a political football.

Mr McGowan said he was encouraged the building has now been sold. Most of the material connected to the two sisters has been sold while most of the family papers, including letters between the pair, were donated to the Public Records Office in Belfast.

Three bids were received for the house and 400-acre estate, which had a guide price of 3.75 million when it went on the market in May. The final sale price is higher than the guide but much lower than a reported 5.5m, said Marcus Magnier, chairman of estate agents Jackson Stops.

Sir Josslyn Gore-Booth, the great nephew of Countess Markievicz and her sister, said the new owners signalled their intentions to complete the refurbishment of the house.

Sir Josslyn claimed the Government, in valuing the cost of purchase and restoration at 30m, had effectively ruled itself out as a potential buyer. At that stage, the seller said, he followed the advice of his agent and decided to sell the house to a private individual.

Sligo Fine Gael TD John Perry, chair of the Dáil Public Accounts Committee, said he wanted to see the records from the Government’s inspection of the property to find out how the figure of 30m was arrived at. “I’m going to insist on seeing the files. They’re not just going to get away with this now,” he said.

Environment Minister Martin Cullen said he would have dearly loved that the State could have been in a position to buy the house. Chair of the Sligo County Tourism Committee Ita Leydon said the State’s failure to buy the property was unthinkable.

Lissadell House is one of Ireland’s most historically well-connected stately homes. It featured in a poem by WB Yeats.

The Gore-Booths have lived in the house since it was built around 170 years ago.

The house was the childhood home of Constance Gore-Booth, who in later years, as Countess Markiewicz, was closely connected with the leaders of the struggle for independence and was the first woman to be elected to the House of Commons.

She fought during the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and was condemned to death by the British authorities. Her sentence was later quashed and she was imprisoned.

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