Sunday 22 October 2017

Haugheys get apology over Gaddafi blunder

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE estate agent which mistakenly claimed that Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi was a guest in Charles Haughey's Kinsealy mansion has apologised to the former taoiseach's family.

The claim was included in the sales brochure drawn up by Savills for the former Haughey family home at Abbeville, north Dublin, which is being put on the market by a receiver for €7.5m.

But it emerged yesterday that there were no records of Colonel Gaddafi ever visiting Ireland -- let alone Mr Haughey's Georgian mansion.

And Savills also had to withdraw their claim that former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher visited Mr Haughey at Abbeville.

Relations between the pair never recovered after Mr Haughey declared Ireland to be neutral in 1982 when Britain was at war with Argentina over the Falklands Islands.

In a statement, Savills said it understood both claims to be true at the time -- but had now amended the wording in its sales brochure after receiving "clarification" from the Haughey family. "We would like to apologise for any confusion caused," it said.

There have already been several inquiries to Savills about Abbeville and the company's website has received thousands of hits. The 250-acre demesne is being sold for a fraction of the €45m which Mr Haughey got for the Gandon mansion with its stud farm in 2003. The purchaser, Joe Moran's Manor Park Homes, later went into receivership and was wound up by the High Court this month, owing some €135m to Bank of Scotland Ireland.

The Haughey family had responded quickly to the media reports of Gaddafi and Ms Thatcher being entertained in Abbeville. Former Fianna Fail Junior Minister Sean Haughey put out a message on Twitter to say this was not the case. He could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

The family later followed up with a statement saying it was "very anxious to have this matter clarified" -- particularly in regard to Gaddafi.

Embarrassed

But the late Mr Haughey did meet Gaddafi in 1983 in Tripoli, Libya, when the pair reached agreement on live exports, which led to Libya becoming the State's single biggest market for cattle. This peaked at €90m a year in the early 1990s.

Mr Haughey later insisted he wasn't embarrassed by Gaddafi who called him a friend and expressed his hope that Haughey and Fianna Fail would win the 1987 General Election.

Meanwhile, Bookmaker Paddy Power took advantage of the controversy by publishing odds on the most likely purchaser of Abbeville. It made Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary favourite at odds of 2/1, followed by former Westlife singer Shane Filan and Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson at 7/1 and 8/1 respectively.

Irish Independent

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