Dublin Castle relocates British royal portraits
Portraits of past British monarchs and viceroys were removed from the walls of Dublin Castle shortly before Irish President Michael D Higgins gave a speech there in September, it has emerged.
The Republic's Office of Public Works (OPW) received an "urgent request" to relocate paintings of 18th Century monarch King George III and Queen Charlotte from an unknown source.
A similar request had been lodged ahead of the President's inauguration last November.
The news follows a row over the removal of images of the Queen at Stormont House in Belfast earlier this year.
At the time Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was "not offended" by such royal tributes hanging in the castle.
An internal memo within the OPW, seen by the Sunday Times, said the regal portraits were to be removed from Dublin Castle by Monday September 16, one day before Mr Higgins was due to make a speech marking the centenary of the International Labour Organisation.
Six viceregal portraits from the Battleaxe landing were removed and rehung in the portrait gallery of Dublin Castle, while four large portraits of the British monarchs were relocated out of sight to the Gothic Room.
Less than a week before Mr Higgins' inauguration for his second term in 2018, another memo stated: "George and Charlotte have been taken down and temporarily stored in the Miverna Room." These were replaced with images of Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins.
In July there was controversy when a portrait of the Queen was removed and later reinstated at the Northern Ireland Office in Belfast. It was removed from the public area of Stormont House amid claims in the House of Lords that a civil servant received £10,000 in compensation after complaining that they were offended by having to walk past pictures of the monarch.
Secretary of State Julian Smith intervened and ordered a review of the issue, with the image later returned to display in the public area.
Speaking on the matter in August, Mr Varadkar was clear that he wasn't offended by portraits of British monarchs hanging in Dublin Castle.
He stated at the time: "It's not one for me to make any decisions on. The only thing I would say is that in Dublin Castle we do have portraits of British monarchs and we haven't taken them down, they certainly don't offend me."
Yet it has now emerged the OPW was tasked to remove the portraits soon afterwards, with specific instructions provided about how many men would be required to carry out each job.
Aras un Uachtarain, the official residence of the Irish President, refused to say whether it was behind the request. It told the Sunday Times: "The management of Dublin Castle is a matter for the Office of Public Works."
Mr Higgins has sought to have large portraits of subjects other than British monarchs and viceroys hung in Dublin Castle, but there is believed to be a lack of good portraits of Irish or nationalist figures available.