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Now €58m 'Walford' goes up for rent

Walford -- Ireland's most expensive family home -- is being cleaned up and fitted out for the rental market.

It cost its mystery owner an unprecedented €58m to buy at the height of the boom in 2005, and now, after six years sitting unoccupied, it is being cleaned up for a new lease of life.

Residents on Dublin's Shrewsbury Road have noticed a steady stream of tradesmen, including plumbers, carpenters and gardeners trooping in and out of the imposing Edwardian pile, which in its heyday was home to the late millionaire industrialist Patrick Aloysius (PA) Duggan.

And while there has been little outward sign of any substantial improvement in the house's appearance so far, the builders' skip in the driveway has been filled and emptied regularly according to one observant Shrewsbury Road resident who has been monitoring the movements at Walford closely.

Judging by the intelligence gathered by our spy, everything, including the house's kitchen sink and the tacky Formica cabinets that once surrounded it, have been disposed of so far.

Efforts to further ascertain the progress being made inside the house have been hindered somewhat by the unusual discretion and caution being observed by the builders. Indeed, such is the determination of Walford's owners to keep curious onlookers at bay, the house's front gate remains padlocked at all times.

The move to put Walford up for rent would appear to represent an admission of defeat from its owners, coming as it does after three unsuccessful planning applications to develop houses in its 1.8-acre back garden by Matsack Nominees, the faceless trust that some believe represents its suspected owners, Sean and Gayle Dunne. However, Sean Dunne has consistently denied ownership or even any interest in Walford.

And while it remains unclear as to when the house will be ready to be rented, real estate experts believe its owners will be aiming to secure a foreign embassy as tenants.

The possibility of putting the property up for sale at this point is said to be unlikely given the positively catastrophic fall from its peak value.

Asked by the Sunday Independent what offers Walford could expect to attract now were it to go on the market, one recognised property industry expert estimated its price tag to be in the region of €12m to €15m at best, taking into consideration the 1.8-acres that come with it.

But even that estimate could be hopelessly optimistic when one considers the €12.5m embattled developer Bernard McNamara is currently asking for his own sumptuously-appointed 16,000-sqft mansion on nearby Ailesbury Road.

Add to that the fact that Matsack Nominees has had its planning applications for the development of new houses to the rear of Walford rejected by Dublin City Council planners, and the potential to recover anything approaching the money spent on its 2005 purchase would appear to be even more remote.

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According to the last of these proposals, the house's anonymous owners sought to build no less than nine new houses, varying in size to the rear of the original, decaying residence. There were also plans for underground parking for each property.

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