Saturday 16 December 2017

Donal Lynch: From riches to rags for Citywest high-flyer

Their empire may have fallen, but there are signs that the sons of Jim Mansfield are reviving their business interests.

Jim Mansfield at home
Jim Mansfield at home
PJ Mansfield who was married to Andrea Roche
Businessman Jim Mansfield Snr outside Weston Aerodrome in West Dublin.
The plane which was at the centre of a drugs probe
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

In The Great Gatsby Tom Buchanan contemptuously tells Jordan Baker that wealth alone cannot make someone fit into the upper echelons of society. They must be educated – to Oxford standard – as well. Jim Mansfield and his namesake, Jimmy Jnr, represented the pinnacle of Irish society – in terms of wealth at least – but they did not fulfil the second part of Buchanan's sneering criterion.

Neither were scholars but both had triumphed despite this. Jim, the patriarch, had worked as a farm hand from the age of 14. His flamboyant son and heir, Jimmy Jnr, once told the Commercial Court that he had never read a book and a psychologist's report decreed that he had the reading age of a seven year old.

It was an awkward irony, then, that the final stages of their decline would, this past spring, be marked by the purchase of Jim Mansfield's Citywest school complex by the Department of Education for a 'bargain' €5m. It was the triumph of public service over a once-sexy corporate enterprise; Irish children with crayons instead of rich Saudis with Porsches. Scott Fitzgerald himself couldn't have written a more affecting tragedy.

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