One-time Tory bigwig’s fall from grace laid bare in court as son goes to court to reclaim home from ‘jackal’ trustees
A former Tory Party bigwig suffered a “major heart attack” after being stripped of his Kilkenny mansion and is now “homeless” and in “desperate” financial straits, a court has heard.
Lord George Magan (75), a one-time Conservative Party treasurer whose father was head of MI5, now has nothing but a state pension and finds himself “surrounded by jackals”, the Dublin Court of Appeal was told last week.
His devoted son Edward Magan — who served with Prince William in the well-respected Irish Guards — is fighting in the Irish courts to get the prized mansion back for his father.
It was alleged at court that “rogue” trustees of opulent Castletown Cox “horse-traded” a €40m art collection and sold the highly valuable paintings for just £7m (€8.2m).
This was part of a covert “firesale” to “sell assets at low prices… this is extraordinary,” the peer’s son, former soldier Edward Magan, told the court.
“The family has been destroyed… We have a defendant [Lord Magan] who is surrounded by jackals and they’re just going for him on every level,” he added.
Lord Magan himself once appeared to have it all: a £6m house in upmarket Kensington, prestigious art collection and a prized Irish estate that is often described as the finest house in Ireland.
But in May 2018, eviction agents took possession of the Castletown, Kilkenny, property after a row with the Castletown Foundation Trust — that Lord Magan had set up himself — over unpaid rent.
The peer set up the trust for the benefit of two of his children, Edward and Henrietta. He then sold the stunning 36,000 square-foot mansion — with 513 acres of farmland — to that trust in 2005. Under the agreement, Lord Magan had rights of residence — as long as he paid €100,000 a year in rent.
The trust later claimed the peer had fallen behind on rent payments and sued him in the Irish High Court twice over: for possession of the property and for €571,000 in rent arrears.
The peer argues that he spent large amounts on restoring the property and therefore never expected to be pursued for rent so doggedly. The baron lost in the High Court on both counts and appealed both verdicts.
Then last December, the Court of Appeal ruled he had no legal right to occupy the mansion.
But last week, the second appeal — over the €571,000 High Court judgment of November 2018 — got under way.
During a dramatic hearing, the full extent of Lord Magan’s fall from grace was laid bare in the Court of Appeal by his son.
Edward Magan revealed his plan to report to gardaí the allegedly “criminal” repossession of the Irish property.
Representing himself, the 46-year-old Trinity College Dublin graduate launched a last-ditch appeal to regain ownership of the picturesque property for his father.
In a tell-all speech, he revealed to three senior judges: “He [Lord Magan] had a major heart attack in April.
“He has no home. He doesn’t have anything apart from a state pension.
“Lives are at stake and I’m here putting my case before the court because it’s a desperate situation.
“I’m going to the guards. As a former soldier and with my own kin [police] we can go out and find the wrongdoing.
“I’m never going to stop… I’m sure the court has a sense of the raging injustice… the family got thrown under the bus.” He claimed that the landlord never “came asking for the rent”, adding: “The understanding went much deeper.
“They intuitively knew the tenant [Lord Magan] had spent 25 million doing this house up. He hadn’t been too concerned because his heart was in the house.
“He’d restored the finest house in Ireland, poured his lifelong earnings and energies into creating something truly magnificent. He’d pay it if he could.
“He trusted his accountants, trustees, he thought he had a reliable relationship with his landlord. Yet when the trustees came knocking, they rounded on him.”
Rossa Fanning SC, for Castletown Foundation Trust, acknowledged the family’s “significant emotional attachment” to the house.
But he added: “Lord Magan had no continuing rights to remain in the property…We’d changed the locks. We never wanted to do that in a vindictive way.”
Mr Magan Jr retorted: “Six hundred years of documented history of my family in this country; our family following Irish history through the years.
“Our chattels, our heritage gone, our named trounced. That’s why I’m here.”
Former attorney general Séamus Woulfe, presiding, with judges Úna Ní Raifeartaigh and Brian Murray, reserved the court’s decision to a later date.