Friday 24 May 2019

Country star in bitter row over €1m ghost estate

Sad end to singer Nerney's 50-year friendship with manager who helped make him famous


IT HAS all the ingredients of the sort of ballad Declan Nerney might sing -- land, money, old friends and a bitter falling-out.

But the country music singer, the uncle and godfather of The Saturday's Una Healy, might not fancy adding this tale to his list of hits as it involves himself, his manager Frank Kilbride, a €1m property deal and the end of a 50-year friendship between them.

The 'Country and Irish' singer has split with the man who helped make him famous, as well as a millionaire, after a land development deal went wrong and left music promoter Kilbride nearly €3m in debt.

The two now do not even speak, after Mr Kilbride was left owning a worthless "ghost estate" where just two houses in a development of 12 sold. Mr Nerney -- once dubbed the "Golden Boy of Drumlish" -- bought the plot on a remote piece of land in Leitrim Cross, near his hometown in Longford, 10 years ago, for an estimated €70,000.

He received planning permission in 2003 to build a superpub he was going to name after his father, Dan Joe, as well as 12 houses on the six-acre site. He gave the building contract to his lifelong friend Frank Kilbride and Frank's nephew Enda Sheridan, a carpenter.

But, in 2007, just before the property bubble burst, Mr Nerney, 53, sold his interest in the housing half of the development to Mr Kilbride and Mr Sheridan's company for €1,040,000.

Now Mr Kilbride's development company is in receivership, and because of interest accrued, he now owes almost €3m to ACC bank thanks to the poor house sales.

A deal to sell the remaining 10 houses at knockdown prices collapsed, and the empty properties are slowly falling into disrepair and the site is overrun with weeds.

The planned pub, which would have included a music venue, never went ahead.

Mr Nerney, who was filming last week with Una as part of a British TV fly-on-the-wall documentary about her girl band, told the Sunday Independent: "I'm not in a position to make any comment whatsoever. That's all I want to say."

A source close to the singer and Mr Kilbride said: "It's very sad. They were life long friends and both of them are badly affected by it. It's like the song 'We don't talk anymore'."

Mr Kilbride, who owns the Park House Hotel in Edgeworthstown, where President Mary McAleese is a regular visitor, said: "I thought, it's a business deal and I am dealing with a friend. Enda and I were half way through developing another site and Declan Nerney asks me and Enda to start this development.

"There wasn't a problem, we were all happy campers, until one day he said to me: 'Frank I'll do a deal with you because I have to start the pub'. He had to get the money to start that. That's where I made the mistake."

In January 2007, Mr Kilbride handed over €1,040,000 to Mr Nerney for the partly-built housing side of the development and a legal agreement was drawn up.

"I gave him the money and we were all happy but then the bubble burst and I was left holding the baby."

He managed to sell only two of the four-bedroom detached homes, which were originally put on the market for €255,000. Then, when the bubble burst, he went on local radio offering them at the knockdown price of €175,000, just to try to break even and pay-off most of the debt.

"I was bombarded and so was the auctioneer. I nearly had them sold that evening. We had people signed up, and contracts signed, but everyone of the purchasers invol-ved, the banks wouldn't give them any money. They had just stopped lending almost overnight and people couldn't get mortgages, the problem was the banks were not lending . . . I was prepared to sell the houses at cost price just to give back the money we had borrowed from ACC," he said.

As if things weren't bad enough, Mr Kilbride also lost his Sunday night show on Shannonside Radio, after 20 years behind the microphone.

"I just feel very, very upset that Declan was able to walk away and I was left stuck with the development and all this debt," he said yesterday.

Meanwhile, Una Healy played a duet of 'Time After Time' with Declan Nerney at the famous Marquee in Drumlish festival on Friday night. He said: "We're absolutely honoured and delighted to have Una appearing at the festival this year."

Sunday Independent

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