Haughey’s pride and joy Abbeville hits the market for €7.5m, but the price is relative

Abbeville and its grounds, which were the site of the home of former taoiseach Charles J Haughey, are up for sale for an asking price of €7.5m.

That looks like a bit of a snip in comparison with the €45m paid for it in 2003. But then the price is relative.

The house, which was designed by the renowned architect James Gandon — whose more famous works included the Customs House and Four Courts in Dublin — served briefly as a summer residence for the Lords Lieutenant of Ireland during the late 18th century, before the purchase of the Vice Regal Lodge, now Áras an Uachtaráin in the Phoenix Park in 1784.

Shortly after purchasing Abbeville in 1969, Haughey became embroiled in a political scandal over property speculation. The whole thing figured prominently in the 1969 general election.

The scandal had nothing to do with Abbeville. It surrounded the sale of his former home at Raheny. He had bought Grangemore, a large Victorian mansion on a 45-acre site at Raheny in 1957 for £13,000.

Matt Gallagher, a property developer, had persuaded him to buy Grangemore and the grounds on the assurance that he would buy the land once the country began to lift itself out of the existing economic recession. Gallagher duly purchased the property from Haughey 12 years later for £204,000.

Haughey was able to use that money to purchase Abbeville and the surrounding 250 acres for £144,997 in 1969. He also purchased a 127-acre stud farm in Co Meath, and still had over £25,000 left over from the Raheny sale.

In 1973, Haughey sold off some 17.5 acres of Kinsealy to Cement Roadstone for a quarry for £140,000. He set up a stud farm and developed part of the remaining properly into a wildlife preserve.

In late 1979 and early 1980 when Haughey ran into financial trouble with Allied Irish Bank, he made a deal with Matt Gallagher’s son, Patrick, and the Gallagher Group, to sell some 35 acres of the Kinsealy estate for £1.225m.

The Gallagher Group agreed to purchase the property by 1986 and put down a £300,000 as non-refundable deposit.

When the group and its Merchant Bank, worth an estimated £70m, went into liquidation, the receiver deemed any claim on the lands at Kinsealy unrecoverable.

The land that Haughey retained had really cost him nothing. He had paid £144,497 for the whole property but had sold a fraction for £140,000, and then collected a £300,000 deposit on part of the remainder, which he was able to retain.

He gave some of the property to his children to build houses, and he sold off the remainder for €45m to Manor Park Homes, which had ambitious plans to develop a hotel and a golf course on the grounds before it went into liquidation.

* Ryle Dwyer is author of Haughey’s Forty Years of Controversy, published by Mercier Press.

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