Sunday 18 February 2018

Poll-topper sued for €1.3m by widow over hotel deal

Fionnan Sheahan, Fiach Kelly and Mark Hilliard

He's a personal friend of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

He's the Junior Minister for Small Business, who has run plenty of small businesses, including a supermarket, a hardware store, a hotel and a funeral home.

And now John Perry is the second government minister to face court action over a disputed debt.

Yesterday, Mr Perry settled an action with Mrs Hilary Burke, a Galway widow, over the alleged failure to pay a €1.3m debt relating to the lease of a hotel.

Mrs Burke, from Kinvarra, Co Galway, sued Mr Perry and his wife Marie Perry last year as the personal representative of her late husband Padraic Burke, who died in 2010.

It is understood the dispute related to a leasing agreement in respect of the Coach House Hotel in Ballymote, Co Sligo.

The case came before the Master's court where the parties settled the action before it was assigned for hearing by a High Court judge.

Lawyers for Mrs Burke told Master of the High Court Ed Honohan that the parties had resolved the long-standing dispute.

Master Honohan did not read the terms of the settlement to the court.

Afterwards, both legal teams refused to discuss the terms of the deal.

Mr Perry said the court case had no relevance to his role as a TD and minister.

"The proceedings involving John Perry TD, which were settled today, relate to a private commercial matter. They have no bearing or relevance whatsoever to his role or function as a public representative or minister of state. Accordingly, Deputy Perry will be making no further comment on the matter," his office said in a statement.


Mr Perry declined to respond to a question from this newspaper about whether the Taoiseach is aware of the court action. The Sligo-North Leitrim TD is a loyal supporter and friend of Mr Kenny.

During the infamous Fine Gael heave, he was rock solid behind the party leader.

He was rewarded afterwards with a promotion to the Fine Gael frontbench as spokesman on small business, paving the way for him to be elevated to the rank of junior minister when the Government was formed last year.

The 55-year-old topped the poll in the last general election and is now a TD for 15 years.

After just one previous outing, when he failed to be elected as a councillor in 1985, he went straight into the Dail in the 1997 General Election, replacing the retiring Ted Nealon as the Fine Gael TD in Sligo.

His appeal as a candidate came from his involvement in local business and a variety of community organisations, including Sligo's first Community Enterprise Board and he was named Sligo Person of the Year in 1993.

Yet he still came from nowhere to win a seat in 1997 after running an American-style campaign with a lot of razzmatazz that hadn't been seen in the county before.

Mr Perry is married to Marie Mulvey and they have one son, Jude, who is in secondary school. The family live in the old rector's house in the town.

A native of Ballymote, a town in south Sligo, Mr Perry has run a number of businesses in the town. When Michael Noonan was Fine Gael leader, he paid a visit to the town and was said to whimsically comment: "Is the church the only thing Perry doesn't run around here?"

His friendship with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was cemented in 2006 when he got him to travel to Sligo to dedicate a monument in Ballymote to New York's "Fighting 69th", the famed largely-Irish regiment from the American Civil War, and its most famous commander, Michael Corcoran, who was born in the area.

Irish Independent

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