29 December 2005

Mountbatten offered use of his castle to Irish state

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael Brennan
29 December 2005

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Classiebawn Castle - Photo from Sligo Heritage

The Irish Government rejected an offer from Lord Mountbatten for the free use of his castle in County Sligo, according to newly-released files.

The former Earl of Burma, who was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979, had inherited Classiebawn Castle after the death of his wife.

He wrote to the Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave in March 1975 to offer the castle to the state as a gesture to cement his family's close connection with Ireland.

"My suggestion would be that it should be available for the President, you, your Ministers or official visitors to Ireland, for a period to be mutually agreed."

After overseeing the liberation of Burma and Singapore from Japanese forces in 1945 and the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, Lord Mountbatten made regular visits to Ireland.

"The only request I would make is that you would allow my family and me to use the castle during the month of August, as we have done almost every year since the war. Not only do we look forward to our annual visit but we value keeping up the close family ties with Ireland through our annual visit," he told Mr Cosgrave.

Lord Mountbatten employed 14 staff to look after the 10 bedrooms, five bathrooms and four reception rooms in the castle.

Within 10 days, the Department of the Taoiseach had drawn up a memo on the proposal.

It noted that the state would have the castle rent-free, except for the normal upkeep such as rates and maintenance.

"The Taoiseach feels that, having regard to the limited use that the state would be likely to make of the castle and the relatively heavy annual expenditure that would be involved, the offer should be declined. He recommends accordingly to the Government."

Mr Cosgrave was more diplomatic when he wrote to Lord Mountbatten on April 4, 1975 to refuse the offer.

He thanked him for the "very generous gesture" and the friendly feelings towards Ireland which had inspired it.

But he said he had come to the reluctant conclusion that the limited use the state would have for the castle would not justify the acceptance of the offer.

The file on the issue, which has been released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule, contains further evidence of the close relationship between Lord Mountbatten and senior members of the Irish Government.

Lord Mountbatten was killed along with members of his family when the IRA blew up his fishing boat off Mullaghmore in 1979.

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