A State plan to buy an 18th century south Galway house associated with WB Yeats and Sir John Betjeman appears to have been dropped in spite of commitments given by three Government ministers.
The apparent abandonment of the purchase has been criticised by Gordon St George Mark, a US resident and descendant of the St George family who originally owned Tyrone House near Kilcolgan.
The 18th century house overlooking the Clarenbridge oyster beds of south Galway inspired Somerville and Ross's The Big House of Inver and WB Yeats's last play. The St George family mausoleum was immortalised in John Betjeman's poem, Ireland With Emily.
It was designed for Christopher French St George by John Roberts, the 18th-century Co Waterford architect who was also responsible for Mayo's Moore Hall. The house includes a walled garden, outhouses and a tower house, believed to have archaeological significance as it predates the other buildings.
The house was abandoned in 1905 and torched by the IRA during the War of Independence in 1920. An elderly and bed-bound caretaker was reputed to be inside at the time, but the IRA carried his bed, bedding and furniture downstairs, put him in one of the out-offices and then set the place alight.
The building, which is privately owned, has been the subject of continuous looting in recent years.
Corner stones, original fireplaces, window frames, balustrades and other valuable architectural features have been removed - some of which were recovered during an investigation several years ago by gardaí.
Galway County Council says it had attempted to purchase the building from its current owner on behalf of the national monuments section of the Department of the Environment.
Support for State purchase was first expressed by former arts minister Michael D Higgins, but an ownership issue delayed acquisition by the Commissioners of Public Works.
The case was taken up by his successor in arts and culture, Síle de Valera, who referred it in turn to former environment minister Martin Cullen.
In March, 2004, Mr Cullen informed Ms de Valera that his department was unable to agree terms with the private owner, and it had agreed with Galway County Council that compulsory purchase powers under the Planning and Development Act 2000 would be applied.
Mr Gordon St George Mark says he understands that the Government has no longer allocated any funds for the purchase of Tyrone House.
"If the owner is also unable to repair or maintain the building, the State should take responsibility," Mr St George Mark told The Irish Times.
Galway County Council was unavailable for comment.
The Irish Times