Lord faces arrears battle over palatial home
A lord who once owned one of Ireland's finest Palladian mansions had his tenancy of the property ended in a "dawn raid", the High Court heard yesterday.
Lord Magan of Castletown rented Castletown Cox in Co Kilkenny as his secondary residence after selling it in 2005 to a family trust to benefit his children.
But the peer, who sits as a Conservative in the UK House of Lords and normally lives in London, ran up €570,000 arrears on his €100,000-a-year rent.
Because of that, eviction agents launched a "dawn raid" and took possession of the house and estate last May, the court heard. They cut chains and locks to enter the property, once called the most beautiful house in Ireland.
The trust, which is selling the house, is seeking an order for the payment of the arrears.
Hugh O'Neill, counsel for Lord Magan (72) said the repossession was a criminal offence because he had served notice he was disputing a termination of tenancy.
Lord Magan claims that he has spent €361,000 on upkeep of the house since the trust, the Castletown Foundation, stopped contributing to maintenance. He says that should be offset against the arrears.
The trust says it costs half a million a year to look after the property. With just €100,000 rental income and fees from a licence to use the house's collection of fine art and furniture, it is not enough to pay the bills, it says.
Lord Magan also owes another €2.1m in loans to meet personal expenditure unrelated to Castletown Cox, the trust says. Alongside this, some €14.5m in borrowings are secured on the property.
Rossa Fanning SC, for the Castletown Foundation, said the only way to relieve the financial strain was "to bite the bullet and sell Castletown Cox".
An agreement was reached this year to sell it to an unidentified buyer for more than €19m.
Mr Fanning added that Lord Magan is in "straitened financial circumstances" and recently obtained a loan from fellow peer Lord Ashcroft to stave off a bankruptcy application.
Mr Justice Robert Haughton reserved his decision.