25 May 2022

State offered to buy Lissadell House in 1987 for IR£80,000

State could have acquired Lissadell House in 1987 for IR£80,000

Lissadell House.

The State could have acquired Lissadell House in 1987 for IR£80,000, according to a briefing note prepared by the Office of Public Works for the Department of Finance according to State Papers from 1987.

The historic home of the Gore-Booth family in Sligo, which W.B Yeats immortalised in his poetry, was eventually bought in 2003 by barristers Eddie and Constance Cassidy for €3m.

However, a protracted court battle over rights of way at the estate left Sligo County Council with a legal bill in excess of €5m.

According to documents revealed in the State papers, an OPW official told the Department in July 1987 that "the House, excluding the estate lands, could be acquired for IR£80,000, however the refurbishment of the House after years of minimal maintenance would cost at least IR£1m and possibly double that amount".

The Regional Tourism Manager Dan O’Neill had written to then Finance Minister and Sligo TD Ray MacSharry in April 1987 with proposals to develop the property as a tourist attraction, telling him the county needed "a major tourist attraction".

However, the briefing note from the OPW to the minister in July that year concluded that even with the assistance of European development funds, "it is considered that the net cost to the State is still unacceptable and in the current economic climate acquisition cannot be recommended".

Also in the file is a letter from estate agents Hamilton and Hamilton who were then acting for the Gore-Booth family which put the asking price for the house and estate at IR£500,000.

The letter advised that Josslyn Gore-Booth would not consider a figure less than IR£400,000 and warned that unless "such a figure is possible, there is no point in prolonging negotiations".

It also said the Gore-Booths wanted to have a permanent right of residence in a small part of the house.

While Josslyn Gore-Booth was in favour of Lisadell being developed as a tourist attraction, the letter warned that "he would not be willing to see the property turned into a ‘hurdy-gurdy’ resort".

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