A PLEDGE to take an initiative to end the State’s neglect of historic Killarney House has been made by Minister for the Environment John Gormley in a letter to local Senator Paul Coghlan who has been campaigning for years on the issue.
Earlier this year the only daughter of John and Mary McShain, American builders and philanthropists who gave much of the 27,000-acre Killarney National Park to the State, described the treatment of Killarney House, her parents’ home for 40 years, as “a disgrace”.
In response to Mr Coghlan’s persistent lobbying on the issue the Minister wrote a letter last week in which he promised action from his officials to deal with the problem.
“I can now advise that an interdepartmental committee comprised of officials from both the Office of Public Works and my department has been established with a view to overseeing a successful resolution to this issue,” said the letter.
“This committee is considering all options including an initial need to undertake remedial repairs to the structure of the building involving mainly roof and window repairs and to enhance its external appearance. These works would be appropriate, regardless of the future longer-term plans for the house,” said the Minister.
He added that depending on the levels of funding available it may be possible to make progress in the shorter term on work which would improve the house and its grounds at an early stage to the benefit of the town of Killarney.
“In the meantime this would facilitate a more considered review of the possible appropriate new uses for the building itself. In this regard, some preliminary discussions are taking place with Fáilte Ireland in regard to its tourism capital investment programme to explore funding possibilities,” said the Minister.
Mr Coghlan said yesterday that he hoped the Minister’s initiative would lead to early action as it was urgently required to protect the house, which had been sold to the State by the McShains 10 years ago for a fraction of its real value.
“It is sad and disappointing that this beautiful house and gardens has been allowed to decay but I know Minister Gormley’s heart is in the right place and I hope that he will be able to put things to right,” said Mr Coghlan.
Earlier this year Pauline McShain, whose parents sold Killarney House to the State, said she was sad and disillusioned by the attitude of the Government and asked for an explanation of how the house, which dates from the early 18th century, had been left to fall apart and was being used by squatters.
“My parents restored and beautified Killarney House. It is a treasure. It should be the centre of Killarney National Park. But it’s falling into a ruin,” she said.
The deterioration of the historic building, part of a French-style chateau which was home to the earls of Kenmare, has been the subject of ongoing concern and the issue has been raised repeatedly in the Seanad by Mr Coghlan.
The US developers and philanthropists John and Mary McShain agreed to sell their home and lands to the State for a fraction of their value.
They did so on the basis that the property would be maintained and incorporated into Killarney National Park.
Two development plans have been put forward in the 10 years since the chateau came into State ownership but the necessary funding has not materialised.
Furnishings from Killarney House were acquired by the State so that the main rooms could be opened to the public – but the house has remained closed.
The Irish Times