Sunday 18 August 2019

Children of leading professor told 'no money to bury him'

Professor Austin Darragh
Professor Austin Darragh
Anna Darragh. Picture: Courtpix
David Darragh. Picture: Courtpix

Tim Healy

Two children of well-known Professor Austin Darragh were told after his death there was no money in their father's estate to bury him, the High Court heard.

Prof Darragh set up the organisation that became the Irish Cancer Society and was a highly successful businessman, medical doctor, broadcaster, writer and equestrian enthusiast who was once the target of kidnappers.

He died in October 2015 at the age of 88, and in a will executed in 2011 he left his entire estate to his second wife of 17 years, Anna Darragh (74) of Tara, Co Meath.

David and Adrienne Darragh, two of Prof Darragh's four surviving children from his first marriage to Terry, who died in 1992, are now seeking court orders directing their stepmother to produce testamentary papers in order to prove the will.

They claim, among other things, their father may not have had capacity to make the 2011 will and may have been subjected to undue influence.

They also want an account provided about certain assets - including what had happened to more than €7m from the 2006 sale of land behind the former Darragh home on the Brennanstown Road in Foxrock.

If this is not done, they want an independent administrator over the estate appointed.

Mrs Darragh denies their claims. In a separate application, she seeks dismissal of their case on grounds including they have no legal standing to challenge the will and have shown no reasonable cause of action.

In a joint affidavit, David Darragh, of Old Bray Road, Shankill, Dublin, and Adrienne Darragh, of Bettystown, Co Meath, said their father assisted both of them in business ventures during his lifetime.

But after the 2011 will, Mrs Darragh "increasingly antagonised the deceased's children," they claim. In 2012 she banished Adrienne from an annexe attached to the large Tarabeg Estate in Tara, Co Meath.

After the funeral in October 2015, Prof Darragh's children by his first marriage were not invited back to the house while Mrs Darragh's own two children were. "The deceased's adult children were also told, bafflingly, there was 'no money to pay for the funeral'," it is claimed. A year later, the funeral directors advised they remained unpaid, the siblings said.

It was claimed Mrs Darragh's eldest son, Colm McDonnell, told his stepbrother and sister there "was no money in your father's estate to bury him... the bank accounts are emptied". Three weeks after the funeral, David first received a copy of the 2011 will from Colm McDonnell. It was claimed Colm McDonnell, a chartered accountant in a Dublin firm, also told David to "stay away" from solicitors or there would be "a reckoning" with the taxman.

This claim is strongly denied by Mrs Darragh's lawyers.

The siblings said they are also coerced to conclude Mrs Darragh had planned and contrived to use their father's monies to bail out her former husband, Angus McDonnell, a managing partner in the insolvent Bloxham stockbrokers, as well as their two sons.

Brian Spierin SC, instructed by Crowley Millar Solicitors, for Mrs Darragh, said his client had been unable to have the will proved because the two children had entered caveats which prevents a grant of probate. They were "fishing for information" by taking their proceedings, he said.

Mr Justice Denis McDonald reserved his decision.

Irish Independent

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