Mystery surrounds gift of house to Haughey

 

THE children of the former Taoiseach, Mr Charles Haughey, own a house on the coast of Co Sligo which was given to their father by a gaming-hall owner.

The house is on Cloonagh beach at Lislary, Co Sligo, and came with just under 13 acres when it was given to Mr Haughey by the late Mr John Andrew Currid in January 1972.

Mr Currid's brother, Mr Thomas Currid (82), said John Andrew gave the house to Mr Haughey "as a present". When he questioned his brother as to why he had done this, "he said it was because they were great friends".

AIB documents read out at the Moriarty tribunal last month indicate that Mr Haughey told the bank in 1974 that he bought the property for £10,000, but Mr Thomas Currid said he was sure the house was given to Mr Haughey.

The house is a modest one, and some of the land can flood at high tide. The figure in the bank documents would be a very high price for such a property at the time. No mortgage is registered on the documents held in the Land Registry office, though AIB held the deeds at one stage as part of the security against overdrafts run up by Mr Haughey.

The house had formerly belonged to John Andrew Currid's grandmother and uncle, who raised him after his mother died. "There was some land and it is on top of the shore, a lovely place," Mr Thomas Currid said.

Mr John Currid was the owner of Barney's amusement centre which was on the corner of Marlborough Street and Talbot Street, Dublin. He was a successful businessman and also owned the nearby Champion Hotel, and shops in Liverpool. He had been in business since the 1940s and sold the gaming arcade and moved to England some time in the 1970s. When he died, in 1984, he left more than £2 million, his brother said.

Mr Tom Gilmartin, the Luton-based developer who gave £50,000 to Mr Padraig Flynn in June 1989, is also native of Lislary. A dispute between the Haugheys and Mr Gilmartin's family led to 1.7 acres being transferred to Mr Gilmartin's mother, the late Ms Kathleen Gilmartin, in June 1986.

According to Mr Gilmartin, the 1.7 acres "was a strip of land that adjoined our land, and for the best part of 40 years it was ours. It was just a sandbank really, but it became part of our land as part of a deal from about 40 years ago. John Andrew [Currid] was friendly with Charlie Haughey and he gave him the house and Charlie Haughey attempted to claim that piece of land as well."

The matter was eventually sorted out and the strip of land transferred to his mother's name in 1986. In December 1980 the Lislary house had been transferred from Mr Haughey's name to Larchfield Securities, the company owned by Mr Haughey's four children.

No money changed hands in return for the land being transferred to the late Mrs Gilmartin, according to her son. "There is nothing sinister in it.

"I never discussed it with Charlie Haughey. I only met him once [in February 1989] in Leinster House, and he said: `I know you. I know where you come from'."

When it was mentioned to him that Lislary was reputed to be very beautiful, Mr Gilmartin said: "I spent 20 years dreaming of getting out of it. It is windy, wet and damp. Life is hard there."

WHY Mr Haughey would have wanted the house is not known. In the 1970s he was building a holiday home on the coast of Co Wexford and was in the process of having a house built on Innishvickillane, his island off Co Kerry. Local people say Mr Haughey rarely used the house, though his brothers and sisters make regular use of it.

Mr Currid never married and how he came to be friendly with Mr Haughey is not known. Traders in Talbot Street say he was a colourful figure who dressed in linen suits and wore a fedora.

He left a considerable part of his fortune to charities, according to his brother. He gave £400,000 to the Jewish Board of Guardians, and £500,000 to the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. "He was very religious." The second £1 million was divided into 74 parts and shared among family and friends. "We all got a bit off him."

According to Mr Joe Briscoe, Mr Currid, who was a Catholic, was helped by some Jewish businessmen when starting out in business, and never forgot this. A special service for Mr Currid is held in the Adelaide Road synagogue each year, with the most recent earlier this month.