Labour TD for Wicklow and East Carlow Anne Ferris has called on the remaining board members of the Alfred Beit Foundation to step down. “The Georgian Society, An Taisce and the RDS, all trustees of this charitable body have condemned the decision to export the Beit paintings for sale abroad. In my view this leaves the remaining foundation members, including representatives of state financed bodies UCD, TCD and the National Gallery of Ireland in an untenable position. The nominating bodies, all very credible national institutions, need to reconvene at a very strategic level and redefine the skill set needed to deliver the world class gallery of international status that was intended by the Beits when bequeathing this important gift for the benefit of Ireland’s citizens. They need to ensure that the most appropriately skilled nominees sit on the foundation’s Board at this critical phase in the life of this public benefit trust.”
Deputy Ferris pointed out that the primary object of the charity, as stated in its memorandum and articles of association, is to promote and further the advancement of education in the fine arts of Ireland. “This organisation was not granted favourable charitable status with the sole objective of fixing leaking gutters on Russborough House. The motivation of the Beits when setting up this trust was that the paintings and the house together would be a world renowned art gallery having broad educational merit. The type of facility intended by the Beits could do for Co. Wicklow and Ireland what the Guggenheim has done for Bilbao.” remarked Deputy Ferris. “We can’t lose sight of that.”
“The Minister for Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht is absolutely correct in her assertion that the State has no role in the administration of the Beit Foundation. However the Minister has a strong and important role in arts education and on behalf of the intended beneficiaries of the Beit trust assets, the Irish people, has a mandate to ensure that the Beit collection is used for the intended educational purpose and not just sold off in a piecemeal fashion to repair holes in the roof of Russborough House.” said Anne Ferris.
“The Alfred Beit Foundation has an obligation to the beneficiaries of the trust to ensure that any asset sale is strictly necessary. There is no evidence in the public domain of a master plan for this important house and its art collection or indeed a fundraising strategy of the standard necessary to achieve the charity’s objective. Russborough needs a plan and trustees with the skills to create and oversee such a plan.”