Man arrested over paintings theft
Detectives investigating the theft of publicly-owned paintings from a private storage facility have arrested a man.
The artwork and other items, which were under the care of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, were taken from private premises in Limerick.
Local Garda officers, backed up by members of the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, have detained a man in Shannon, Co Clare. The suspect, in his early 40s, is being questioned at Shannon Garda station, where he is being held under the Criminal Justice Act.
The Government department responsible has refused to disclose details of the stolen artwork. But details were reported earlier this year that 19th century paintings originally belonging to the Killarney House estate, in Co Kerry, and stolen from storage in Naas, Co Kildare, were recovered during a public auction.
Portraits of the 1st Earl of Kenmare and his second wife, Mary Aylmer, who lived in Killarney House, were put up for sale at a Dublin salesroom, valued at up to 30,000 euro.
It is believed they were sold in the UK through a London auctioneer before being brought to Ireland by an unwitting, legitimate dealer. Only when they appeared at the Dublin auction was it noticed they were missing from a public collection and the authorities notified.
The thieves managed to evade strict security measures in the art world because the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht did not know they were missing, and so never reported them stolen.
After the robbery came to light, an inventory of all arts, antiques and other items under the care of the Government department was ordered. The Department has also refused to release the details of this list.
Investigating gardai said further planned searches are being carried out in the Limerick area following the arrest.
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan was told about the robbery six months ago. "As this is an active investigation I must be cautious in any comment I make in order not to impact on the investigation that is under way," Mr Deenihan said. "This is an extremely serious matter, and I have instructed my Department to give every possible assistance to An Garda Siochana in order to help return these items to the State."