One of the country’s finest stately homes has been badly damaged in a fire, fire chiefs said today.
A blaze broke out last night in 18th century Russborough House in Co Wicklow.
Several fire crews went to the house, near Blessington, at about 9.30pm and fought for about three hours to bring the fire under control.
The west wing of the building is said to be extensively damaged and it is understood part of the roof collapsed.
The mansion, which was built in 1741 and houses valuable fine art, antiques and silverware, has been targeted in several notorious robberies.
In 1974 an IRA gang, including British heiress Rose Dugdale, stole paintings valued at IR£8m and in the mid-1980s Dublin criminal Martin Cahill stole IR£30m of paintings from the house.
Owners Sir Alfred and Lady Clementine Beit gifted the building to the State in 1978 but continued to live there until their deaths in 1994 and 2006.
It is open to the public as a tourist attraction.
Gardaí and fire authorities are expected to launch an investigation into the blaze.