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Lotto dream dies as Titanic restaurant is sunk

A LOTTO millionaire lost his business yesterday when a court ruled he must lose his dream Titanic-themed pub and restaurant.

Vincent Keaney, (49), won IR£1m (?1.25m) in the Lotto in 1996. He vowed to fulfill his dream of setting up a bar on the spot in Cobh where 120 passengers embarked on the faithful first and last voyage of the ocean liner in 1912.

Mr Keaney bought Scott's Buildings - once the location of White Star Line's offices and the dole office where Mr Keaney had signed on.

After almost six years of building and wrangling, Mr Keaney succeeded in opening the business. However, it hit rough seas and had to close.

With help from Michael Nolan and his firm Tregan Properties, Mr Keaney salvaged the venture and steamed ahead. However, it encountered more difficulties, and yesterday Tregan and Mr Keaney ended up before Judge Sean O Donnabhain at Cork Circuit Civil Court to resolve their difficulties.

Tregan was suing Mr Keaney's firm for possession of the two properties - the bar and restaurant and adjoining buildings. The firm also sought rent arrears of ?220,000 from Mr Keaney.

The court heard Mr Keaney entered partnership with Mr Nolan shortly before the opening of the bar in August 2000.

Following the second closure of the business, Mr Nolan became the leading shareholder, leasing Scott's Buildings to Mr Keaney.

Terry O'Driscoll, for Mr Keaney, explained that Mr Nolan had been brought in by Mr Keaney as an adviser, and as the business began to flounder the men entered into an agreement in which Mr Nolan allegedly agreed to pay off the firm's debts. Mr Keaney alleged that Mr Nolan did not fulfill this agreement.

The Lotto millionaire also alleged that Mr Nolan committed fraud by forging Mr Keaney's signature and siphoning money from business accounts. These allegations are being probed by gardai.

Willis Walsh, for Michael Nolan, said there was a "historic feud" between the men.

Mr O'Driscoll said Mr Keaney wanted to "stay in the building and run it". Judge O Donnabhain said Mr Keaney's counsel had not "established a defence". He said he must award possession to Tregan, and adjourned the case involving rent arrears for seven weeks so Mr Keaney could plan a defence.

Mr Keaney was not in court for the judgment, while Mr Nolan sat in the back of the court.

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