Friday 20 July 2018

Maureen Haughey, stoic wife of Charlie, leaves €9m fortune

Horse lover Maureen Haughey
Horse lover Maureen Haughey
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

Maureen Haughey, wife of former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey, has left more than €9m in her will, according to papers lodged in the Probate Office in Dublin last week.

Mrs Haughey, the daughter of another former Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, lived most of her married life in the Gandon-designed mansion Abbeville in Kinsealy, near Malahide in north county Dublin.

Following the death of her husband in 2006, she moved to a modern, purpose-built home on the edge of the estate close to her children.

Charlie and Maureen Haughey bought Abbeville in 1969 shortly after he had been reappointed Minister for Finance in Jack Lynch's government - selling a smaller estate, Grangemore near Raheny, and 17 acres of Abbeville to Cement Roadstone to finance the deal.

After buying Abbeville, the Haugheys set about restoring the house and gardens to their former glory. The mansion and extensive grounds had fallen into neglect during the tenure of the previous owner, a German industrialist, who had only intermittently used the house. The Haugheys adopted a 'country' lifestyle, hunting with the Fingal Harriers, and Maureen, as well as being a housewife and mother, bred horses and Irish Wolfhounds. "I like horses and dogs and people," she said in a rare interview.

She was unflappable throughout the crisis years when her husband led Fianna Fail and became one of the most contentious figures in Irish public life. One one occasion, a journalist rang Abbeville late at night to ask if a report that Mr Haughey had died was true. "He's just gone to bed," she answered.

Abbeville, former home of Charles Haughey
Abbeville, former home of Charles Haughey

They revived the stud farm originally established by a previous owner, Percy Reynolds, and eventually produced the prize-winning Flashing Steel which won the 1995 Irish Grand National in the Haughey colours of black with a sash of St Patrick's blue. They also replenished the woodlands with groves of oak and other deciduous trees, encouraged wildlife and stocked pheasants for shooting parties.

During the early years of the boom, in late 2003- early 2004, the 18th-century mansion and 250 acres were the subject of a hotly contested bidding war between developers Johnny Ronan and Joe Moran.

Moran's Manor Park Homes eventually emerged victorious, paying €45m for the property to the Haughey family investment company Larchfield Securities. But various redevelopment plans never got off the drawing board and the Haugheys remained on in the house until Charlie's death.

In 2015, the Nishida family, headed by Norimasa Nishida, owner of the Japanese hotel chain Toyoko Inn International, bought the estate at a knockdown price of €5.5m from the receivers to Manor Park Homes, which was wound up in May 2012 with debts of €135m. Although it has lapsed planning permission for a 70-bedroom hotel centred around the original house, it is understood, from local sources, that the Japanese owners are now happy to use Abbeville as a family home and there are no plans to redevelop the estate at present.

The former Taoiseach’s wife looks at a photograph of her husband alongside children Ciaran, Eimear, Conor and Sean at the formal announcement of the handing over of his private papers to DCU
The former Taoiseach’s wife looks at a photograph of her husband alongside children Ciaran, Eimear, Conor and Sean at the formal announcement of the handing over of his private papers to DCU

Mrs Haughey, who resided at Haley's Hill, Kinsealy, Dublin, died on March 17, 2017. In her will, dated July, 2012, she appointed her daughter Eimear Mulhern and a Dublin solicitor Maureen Black as her trustees.

According to the will, she left the contents of her home and all her personal belongings to her daughter Eimear, with the residue of her estate to be divided among her four children, Eimear, Conor, Ciaran and Sean, who is currently a TD for Dublin Bay North.

Abbeville was also the scene of one of the great dramas in Irish politics when Charlie Haughey was unable to present his budget in 1970 as he had "fallen from his horse". For years there were rumours that he had been beaten up by an irate husband and the name of a prominent television personality, now deceased, was among those mentioned.

Mr Haughey once insisted to me that after his morning ride he had attempted to swing down from the horse using the drain pipe as a grip and it had broken off and he had fallen onto the cobbled yard, breaking his collar bone and suffering concussion. He insisted that the female groom working in the yard at the time would back up his story.

Although it was a scene of great political drama, Abbeville was also a family home and the weddings of all four of the Haughey children were celebrated in marquees erected in the field in front of the house.

Charlie Haughey had a small office at the house, decorated with gifts and photographs of world leaders. When he had visitors for lunch, Maureen would bring tea and ham sandwiches, although he wouldn't eat, saying he had got out of the habit of eating lunch when he became a government minister.

Personal guests were taken to a special sunken sitting room or the bar, which was salvaged from the original Jury's Hotel in College Green. Haughey liked to keep to the estate when not conducting public business and it was left to Maureen to go to Malahide in the latter years to get the papers in the village shop.

Abbeville is unlikely to ever be the centre of such political intrigue but thanks to the Haugheys it remains a green belt between the on-going sprawl of Dublin and the village of Malahide.

Sunday Independent

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