Cork County Council has signed off on a €1.025m deal to buy Mallow town park from two aristocratic brothers, one of whom was once private secretary to Britain’s Princess Diana.
The sale has come as a major relief to councillors who, as far back as 2006, thought they had no chance of acquiring the 34-acre park which is home to a number of local sports clubs.
Nine years ago, Patrick Jephson, who wrote a controversial book about the princess, and his brother, Michael, told the then Mallow Town Council to hand back their property.
Born and raised in Ireland, Patrick Jephson served as a Royal Naval officer for 10 years before joining the Royal Household, where he was the princess’s only private secretary from 1988 to 1996. After Diana’s death, his book, Shadows of a Princess, became a best-seller.
The park was given to the people of Mallow in 1907 by Katherine Jephson Norreys, the Anglo-Irish owner of nearby Mallow Castle, who charged the local authority a nominal rent on a 99-year lease.
Things came to a head in 2006 when her descendants, the Jephson brothers, wrote to the town council saying that, as the lease was about to expire, they expected the council to arrange an “orderly handover of the property”. News that the town park could be lost to locals, especially the GAA, soccer, and rugby clubs which used it frequently, came as a major shock.
It is understood that, at the time, the town council offered the Jephsons around €500,000 and TD Sean Sherlock told the Jephsons the land would not have any development value as it was and would remain designated as an amenity area.
Talks have been going on ever since and last Friday county council officials, who took over talks when the town council was abolished, signed off on the deal.
Fianna Fáil councillor Dan Joe Fitzgerald , who was a veteran of the negotiations, said it was great that the matter had come to a finale.
“We can now sit down and look at plans for it going forward,” said Mr Fitzgerald.
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