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Hard-pressed Niall Mellon puts his country mansion up for sale

CHARITY boss Niall Mellon is selling his country mansion for a fraction of what he paid for it in the boom -- because he can't afford it any more.

He is one of many wealthy businessmen who splashed out on lavish properties in the idyllic River Nore valley in Co Kilkenny during the years of the Celtic Tiger.

But since the bust, the value of these second and third homes has plummeted.

Niall Mellon told the Sunday Independent yesterday that he paid €6.25m for Coolmore House, near Thomastown, in 2004. Today, the developer is selling the beautiful Georgian house, set on 242 acres, for €3.75m.

"If you can't afford it, you should sell it," he said.

"Coolmore is a very special property and we have had many happy memories there. But given the scale of the downturn, I can only afford one family home at the moment."

Mr Mellon, who is married to Nicola and has three sons, said the price tag represented "good value" and that many people in Ireland were "needlessly trying to hold on to second or third homes that they can no longer afford".

He continued: "My advice is to face reality and sell them.

"You only ever have one place to truly call home and if the chips are down, focus on it. We are privileged to have owned Coolmore when we could afford it. Things have changed, so we are selling it."

Mr Mellon has a high profile thanks to his charity work building houses for the poor in South Africa -- but his personal wealth has tumbled since the economic crash.

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Marcus Magnier of Colliers International said Mr Mellon was being "very realistic" and had not put a "silly price" on the property.

The estate comes complete with a helipad, which was used by Mr Mellon before he sold his chopper.

Mr Mellon recently revealed it would be fair to say he was "a little financially challenged at the moment".

In an interview published on his charity's website, he said he had predicted the downturn and sold a number of "key assets ahead of the property fall".

He added: "I am doing the best I can to stay afloat. Having got through the last 18 months, when several of my peers have fallen, I am still standing."

In June of this year, another mansion owned by Mr Mellon, Marlay Grange, in Rathfarnham, Dublin, was destroyed by fire. It was uninsured.

He was listed in Stubbs Gazette in March, after a judgement against him in the London High Court for a debt of over €300,000.

At the time, he said he had used all his "personal funds to pay off almost all my business creditors".

Mr Mellon was previously involved with another businessman, John Sheils, who also owns a mansion in Kilkenny. Mr Sheils and his wife, Susan, own Annamult House in Bennettsbridge.

They know the Mellon family as they were in the newspaper business together.

Annamult House was destroyed by a blaze in June 2009. The historic property, which dates back to the 1700s, had been on the market for €1.85m -- a fraction of what Mr Sheils paid in 2005.

The couple bought the house for €2.5m. They have since withdrawn the property from the market and been granted planning permission to repair the house, which was badly damaged in the fire.

Mr Mellon invested millions of euro in the Voice newspaper group, founded by Mr Sheils.

Established in 2005, it published regional newspapers but all the titles closed in 2008. KPMG was appointed liquidator to the group, which had debts of €8.5m.