Sunday 22 October 2017

Screen legend O'Hara denies she's a victim of 'elder abuse'

Liam Collins

Liam Collins

SHE was the fiery red-head who tamed John Wayne in the class film The Quiet Man and at almost 92 Maureen O'Hara is not taking claims that she was the victim of 'elder abuse' lying down either.

"It's coming from people with nothing better to do, there is nothing scandalous about us or our behaviour, or what we are trying to do," the screen legend said yesterday from her home in Glengarriff, Co Cork.

She was speaking publicly for the first time about a complaint that she was being made to do too many engagements. This led to a HSE investigation of Carolyn Murphy, Ms O'Hara's personal assistant, who has had power of attorney over the charismatic Dublin-born actress since 2006.

The accusations and the worldwide publicity that resulted has cast a shadow over a gathering in the Irish Embassy in London next Tuesday, where the ambassador is hosting a reception for the Maureen O'Hara Foundation.

"I was very upset, not only for myself, but I have always put Maureen and the family first," said Ms Murphy, responding to the claims yesterday.

"The HSE came out and I co-operated with them, I have nothing to fear, I am around Maureen for the last six to eight years, I wasn't frightened. The HSE came to me for a couple of hours and the case is closed.

"She doesn't mind events, obviously there are a lot of people (who) want her to go to different things and when she wants to go she goes and when she doesn't want to go, nobody is going to force her. Maureen always likes to look her best and she makes a big effort to look good and that is often tiring."

Ms O'Hara, whose real name is Maureen Fitzsimons Blair, is not only one of Hollywood's best-loved screen idols, but she was the first female president of an airline.

Speaking from her home in west Cork yesterday, she said, "God has been good to me" and spoke of her wonderful upbringing in Milltown, Co Dublin.

Now she's thrown her full support behind the Maureen O'Hara Foundation, which has the twin aims of creating an international film academy and an educational facility for Irish children.

"I want to get it going and make it a place where young people will get support -- it is to teach them to act and speak right and have the confidence in themselves to 'go for it'," she said yesterday.

She said she had no difficulty handing over power of attorney to her friend Ms Murphy. The two women met in 1978. Ms Murphy and her wealthy American husband retired to Ireland and settled in Glengarriff, where they met Ms O'Hara.

Their friendship blossomed over the years and she became Ms O'Hara's personal assistant in 2004 and was given power of attorney in 2006.

"It was offered to a family member who declined," says Ms Murphy. "Basically, she needed extra help and I felt very honoured and very happy to take this role seriously".

Part of the Maureen O'Hara Foundation will be a Legacy Centre, and it was Ms Murphy who helped catalogue a vast amount of film and other memorabilia which the Hollywood legend has collected.

"She then said to me: 'What am I going to do with it' and out of (that) came the idea for the Legacy Centre, which will be a great boost to Glengarriff and protect the image that she has portrayed over 70 years."

Although Ms O'Hara won't be at the Irish embassy in London next Tuesday, it is the beginning of an international fund-raising campaign that it is hoped will see her dream become a reality.

Sunday Independent

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