'An eerie silence hangs over terracotta mansion'
TOM McFeely's Algarve holiday home is a shadow of the sublime mansion it was when the former IRA hunger striker enjoyed better times.
An Irish Independent reporter gained access to the six-bedroom house as a prospective buyer to witness for himself the result of more than four years of abandonment and neglect.
An eerie silence hangs over the terracotta-coloured villa.
The sun-browned grass and dying palm trees surrounding it contrast sharply with the manicured lawns of the millionaires' row mansions on either side.
The outdoor swimming pool is a forlorn-looking empty concrete basin and several tiles around it are smashed or missing.
Inside is little better.
The first thing that greets you when you open the front door is a garish staircase with a white, wooden balustrade that might fit on a 'Gone With the Wind' filmset but looks out of place in modern-day Portugal. Several wooden floorboards in the bedrooms have buckled because of excessive moisture caused by the lack of climate control.
Plaster has flaked away from many of the walls and litters the floors, and water has leaked into one of the rooms through a gap in the roof.
A rusting, UK-plated black BMW has been left to rot in the basement garage.
The indoor swimming pool is as abandoned and unusable as the outdoor pool.
The black marks along the lower walls of the indoor squash court are a poignant reminder of the life that once coursed through this luxury holiday home.
An estate agent taking the undercover reporter around the €2.5m property readily admitted it needed a lot of renovation work -- and put the repair bill at €150,000 to €200,000.
If that's the estate agent's estimate, then bank on it being twice or three times as much.
And that's without getting rid of the heavy-on-the-eye staircase -- a McFeely folly, which the estate agent almost took for granted would be the first thing a buyer would rip out.
It might be one of the larger properties on the luxurious Quinta do Lago estate -- built on an impressive 3,000 sqm plot that a former Maze hunger striker like Mr McFeely must never have imagined he would one day call his.
It is also, in its current state, one of the ugliest.
And hidden in the small print of records obtained by the Irish Independent is the answer to why the estate agent spec for it brackets the words 'not negotiable' alongside the €2.5m asking price.
Mr McFeely and his American-born wife Nina bought the house mortgage-free in 2007 -- but took out a €2.4m mortgage on the property two years later.
Their bank must be hoping that the McFeelys find a buyer soon -- it's got a windfall coming if they succeed and a potential headache in the offing if they fail.