Friday 15 November 2019

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave left estate worth €33m

Liam Cosgrave refused to sell his 16 acres in South Dublin - and now the land is worth a fortune

The late Liam Cosgrave pictured in 1977
The late Liam Cosgrave pictured in 1977
MODEST BUNGALOW: Beech Park, the home of the late Liam Cosgrave, on Scholarstown Road, Knocklyon. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave has left more than €33m in his will, including €6,000 for Masses to be said for his soul.

The vast bulk of his estate relates to his home, Beech Park, a relatively modest bungalow set in 16 acres of residentially zoned land on Scholarstown Road, a development oasis set among the middle-class housing estates of Templeogue in south Co Dublin.

Mr Cosgrave inherited the property from his father, WT Cosgrave, the first leader of an independent Ireland, and stubbornly refused all offers to sell it during the various building booms that occurred during his lifetime.

Since his death it has been put on the market for valuation purposes, but it has yet to attract a buyer. Property sources indicate it has the potential for the construction of up to 220 new houses.

The original house was bought for his mother by her father, wealthy Dublin market-gardener Alderman Michael Flanagan. It was burned down during the Civil War in 1923 and the present bungalow was rebuilt on the site. Although Liam Cosgrave moved out for some years, following the death of his mother, he moved back to the house and cared for his ageing father for the rest of his life.

A keen horseman, he lived in Beech Park almost all his life, where he kept horses in his early years. He and his late wife Vera raised their three children, Mary, Kieran and Liam T Cosgrave, there.

According to documents lodged in the Probate Office last week, Liam Cosgrave, a "barrister and public representative" of Beech Park, Scholarstown Road, Templeogue, Dublin, left estate valued at €33,713,657. The sole executrix of his will was his daughter Mary, a former executive with Bord Failte.

In a 14-page document, Mr Cosgrave, who died on October 4, 2017, at the age of 97, left his daughter Mary €100,000 "in recognition of the personal care and domestic assistance" she gave him during his lifetime, and he also left the entire contents of the house to her personally.

Much of it had been inherited from his father or collected by himself and his wife Vera over the years.

In a will dated October 16, 2015, he also directed that all his remaining assets be divided in equal shares between his daughter Mary and his sons Ciaran and Liam T Cosgrave, the former Fine Gael TD for Dun Laoghaire.

After qualifying as a barrister and serving in the Irish Army during 'The Emergency', Liam Cosgrave followed his father into politics as a Fine Gael TD, first elected to the Dail in 1947. He later switched to the constituency of Dun Laoghaire, where he was re-elected at every election until his retirement in 1981.

He succeeded James Dillon as leader of Fine Gael in 1965. His early years as leader of Fine Gael were characterised by dissent within the party and he was nearly ousted as leader before his famous speech at a party Ard Fheis in Cork in which he characterised opponents as "mongrel foxes" vowing to "dig them out and the pack will chop them up when they get them".

He was elected Taoiseach in 1973 in a Fine Gael/Labour coalition supported by Brendan Corish. It was a position he held for only one term, until 1977, when he called an ill-judged election a year earlier than was necessary and was soundly beaten by a resurgent Fianna Fail under Jack Lynch, after which he immediately resigned. He was succeeded by Dr Garret FitzGerald.

A man of deep Catholic faith, he achieved what many believed was a 'first' in Irish politics when, as Taoiseach, he voted against his own Government's contraceptive legislation in 1974, helping to defeat it by 75 votes to 61.

After stepping down from public life, he maintained a zen-like vow of silence on political issues and refused all blandishments to write or ghost his memoirs, even though he had lived through some of the most interesting times during the formation of the State and was associated personally and through his father with most of the main characters who survived the War of Independence and the Civil War.

His main interest in life after politics was horse racing and he was a familiar figure at meetings in Leopardstown and The Curragh, and served as an honorary member of the Turf Club for many years.

In his will, Mr Cosgrave also directed that Masses be said for him and his family at his favourite churches in Dublin, Rathfarnham, where he lived, John's Lane off Thomas Street, where he grew up as a boy, St Mary's in Tallaght, Whitefriar Street, Clarendon Street and Mount Argus, all of which he attended for religious ceremonies over the years.

Sunday Independent

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