Irish Cultural Center in Hammersmith, LondonGoogle Images

The Irish government is looking to give nearly £500,000 to the Irish Cultural Center in London to help buy its Hammersmith home, reports the Irish Times.

The building, which has been the center's home since 1995, is being sold by the Conservative-controlled local council.

The sale is part of Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s plan to earn £14 million by selling eight buildings in the borough to reduce its £133 million debt, which is costing £5 million a year in interest.

The deal is expected to be signed next week by Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore. The center will be guaranteed State contribution under terms of the deal, provided that it raises the remaining £1.5 million needed before next March.

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Talks have been under way for months between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Jim O'Hara, the center’s chairman, have been in talks for months

O’Hara is believed to have agreed a deal with the Shepherds Bush Housing Association under which the center will be knocked down and rebuilt to include low-cost accommodation for nurses, police officers and other key public sector employees.

The center's lease on the building falls due in March 2012 and campaigners have pleaded with the council to renew the leaser for another five years instead of selling the building; or to give it a two-year extension to give it more time to raise funds. In January 2009, the council agreed to a lease extension until 2017 and even sent contract documents to the center.

However, it then changed its mind and declared its intention to sell.

The center has been visited on numerous occasions by presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese during their terms of office, and has a high reputation for teaching of Irish music and dance to adults and children.