Canada sells storied diplomatic digs in Dublin


Randy Boswell, Canwest News Service
Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Despite objections from former envoys and an online petition by an Irish-Canadian group to "save Strathmore," Canada's historic ambassadorial residence in Ireland has been sold as part of a deal to downsize Canada's diplomatic digs in Dublin.

A property swap finalized this month will see the sprawling 19th-century mansion on the outskirts of Dublin turned over to Irish real estate developer Michael Roden in exchange for a luxury home in an upscale downtown neighbourhood that soon will be occupied by Canada's ambassador to Ireland, former P.E.I. premier Pat Binns.

Binns has been staying in a downtown hotel apartment close to the Canadian embassy.

The deal also involves a cash payment of $4.8 million to the Canadian government, the negotiated difference in value between the two properties.

"Strathmore is very expensive to maintain and the Dublin traffic has made the location of Strathmore impractical for diplomatic functions," said a statement sent Wednesday to Canwest News Service by the Department of Foreign Affairs. "Canada and its relationship with Ireland would be better served by a more appropriate property in a central location."

The department confirmed on Wednesday the sale of Strathmore and the purchase of a new, $12.8-million official residence in central Dublin.

The property, known as Glanmire, at 22 Oakley Road, is located in the tony Ranelagh district of the Irish capital.

The six-bedroom, 600-square-metre home has been described as superbly landscaped and "lavishly renovated" with "a series of grand reception rooms."

Strathmore, a 760-square-metre, eight-bedroom manor set on a nine-acre, waterfront estate, was built in the 1860s and was extensively renovated in the 1940s.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman said Canada purchased the property in 1957 for $54,000, but that the value now stands at about $17.6 million.

When it was revealed last year that the Canadian government had decided to sell Strathmore - located next door to a stately home owned by Irish rock star Bono - an array of high-profile Canadian critics denounced the plan as a small-minded money grab and a stain on Canada's reputation abroad.

Canada's former ambassador to Ireland, Michael Phillips, who lived at Strathmore from 1996 to 1998, called the planned sale "short-sighted" and a "big mistake."

"It's a perfect venue for diplomatic events," he told Canwest News Service at the time. "It's a place everyone wants to be invited to. For 50 years, it has been seen as a symbol of Canada's linkages with Ireland. It has great cache for Canada and is one of the finest diplomatic residences in Ireland."

Robert Fowler, the former Canadian ambassador to the UN who has gone missing this week in Africa, also was among those last year who urged Canada to keep Strathmore.

"It's a pretty sad statement about Canada's position in the world," he said in September 2007 of the planned sale.

The Foreign Affairs spokesman said Wednesday that the Dublin property exchange "is part of a comprehensive and ongoing review of the overall inventory of official residences to ensure that our official residence holdings are appropriate and provide the best value to the Crown."

Earlier this week, Canwest News Service revealed that the Canadian government had formally launched its bid to unload Macdonald House - the country's $600-million chancery in London's historic Mayfair district - in exchange for a more modern property closer to Canada's main diplomatic site in Britain, Canada House on Trafalgar Square.


© Canwest News Service 2008

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