Wicklow TD concerned that London art sale may breach charitable objectives of foundation

Labour TD Anne Ferris has sent a file of information connected to the Alfred Beit Foundation to the Charities Regulatory Authority for urgent review. The file includes financial statements, the original company memorandum and articles of association.

Deputy Ferris said: “It’s crystal clear to anybody reading these documents that the intended purpose of this charitable bequest was simply not to cover the day-to-day costs of maintaining Russborough House.

“In the words of the original 1976 documentation this charity was set up ‘to promote and further the advancement of education in the Fine Arts in Ireland’. That is why the foundation was granted charitable status and all of the benefits that go with having charitable status including the payment of almost zero tax. If the charitable objective of the Alfred Beit Foundation to promote education in Fine Arts in Ireland is being dishonoured by the sale of the very art works that charity founders proposed to utilise in its education programme, then it is questionable whether the charity is meeting its obligations under the law. This is why I am calling on the Charities Regulator to examine this sale as a matter of urgency.’

“The original trustees had a vision and they set it out very clearly in the founding papers lodged with the Companies Registration Office almost 40 years ago. They envisaged the foundation establishing and running schools and other places of education across the country. Yes Russborough would be an important anchor for the work of the foundation but it was never expected that Russborough House would by itself be the main focus of the foundation. The Alfred Beit Foundation promised schools, education, scholarships, grants and awards.

“There is no indication that that these objectives have been met over the 40-year life of the foundation and even more importantly, there is no sign of any plan to ensure the delivery of these objectives in the future. This foundation was never about keeping the trustees busy. The Beit project was visionary and was set up to benefit the people of Ireland. In return, the Alfred Beit Foundation received charitable status and all that goes with that. The question now is was that justified?”

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