Tuesday 22 January 2019

Children of Professor Austin Darragh fail in High Court application seeking papers from stepmother about father's will

Professor Austin Darragh
Professor Austin Darragh

Tim Healy

Two adult children of the late well-known doctor, Professor Austin Darragh, have failed in their High Court application seeking that their step-mother provide certain papers to prove a will their father made leaving his estate to her.

Prof Darragh was a highly successful businessman, medical doctor, broadcaster, writer and equestrian enthusiast who was at one time targeted by kidnappers who died in October 2015 at the age of 88.

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

They sought court orders directing their step-mother to produce testamentary papers in order to prove the will. 

They also wanted to know about an account provided about certain assets including what had happened to more than €7m from the 2006 sale of land at the rear of the former Darragh home on the Brennanstown Road in Foxrock, Dublin. Alternatively, they wanted an independent administrator over the estate appointed.

Mrs Darragh denied their claims and asked the court to dismiss their case on grounds including they have no legal standing to challenge the will and had no reasonable cause of action.

Earlier today, Mr Justice Denis McDonald said there was no basis on which the children would be entitled to succeed in their claim that their step-mother produce testamentary papers. They could also not succeed in relation to their claim that she had failed to deny on oath her execution of a mutual will with Prof Darragh in 2011.

They must also failed in relation to their claim for an independent administrator on the basis they had no legal standing (locus standii) to do so, he said.

The judge will  hear submissions later this month in relation to Mrs Darragh's application for an order preventing the children from entering any further caveats in relation to the estate.

Earlier in his judgment, he said the children had claimed that in a meeting with Mrs Darragh's son from her first marriage, Colm McDonnell, in a hotel, on November 30, 2015,  a copy of the will was provided to the Darragh children.  It was alleged that at this meeting it was claimed the proceeds of the sale of an asset in 2006 by Prof Darragh had been "earmarked" by Mrs Darragh to assist her first husband.

"On the basis of the evidence currently before the court, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the allegation is based on pure speculation", the judge said. He did not believe therefore it was a matter the court can properly have regard to.

He also noted that no grounds had been provided by the Darragh children as to why the will should be condemned or as to why Mrs Darragh should be required to prove the will in solemn form of law.  What the children were doing was, he said, seeking evidence to assist them in identifying a sustainable ground on which a challenge to the will might be advanced.

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