Woman wins injunction halting removal as director of Hugh Tunney firm

Caroline Devine lives in Classiebawn Castle in Co Sligo and says she was life partner of late businessman

Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo  Photograph: Trish Punch/Lonely Planet/Getty

Classiebawn Castle in Mullaghmore, Co Sligo Photograph: Trish Punch/Lonely Planet/Getty

 

A woman who says she was the life partner of the late businessman Hugh Tunney has been granted a High Court injunction preventing her removal as director of a company associated with his estate.

Caroline Devine claims the attitude towards her changed when she indicated she was going to contest Mr Tunney’s will under civil partnership legislation.

Ms Devine lives in Classiebawn Castle, Mullaghmore, Sligo, under a lifetime exclusive right of residence granted to her by Mr Tunney before his death in June, 2011.

The castle was the summer home of the late Lord Mountbatten, blown up by the IRA in Mullaghmore. Mr Tunney later bought it.

Ms Devine says she was Mr Tunney’s partner for 34 years and claims efforts are being made to obstruct and frustrate her in carrying out her duties as a director of companies controlling trusts set up by Mr Tunney for his four children.

She has brought proceedings against Kerlat Ltd and three of its directors - Brian Baily, Michael Lavelle, and Michael Barrett.

Restraining removal

Ms Justice Miriam O’Regan on Thursday granted Michael McDowell SC, with Maire Mullarkey BL, an order restraining her removal as a director at a board meeting scheduled to take place on Friday and returned the matter to next week.

Mr McDowell said, before he died, Mr Tunney created four trusts for his children and appointed Ms Devine, Mr Baily and Mr Lavelle, both Dublin-based solicitors, as trustees.

Under Mr Tunney’s 2009 will, Mr Lavelle is legally and/or beneficially entitled to the entire share capital of a number of other companies which form part of Mr Tunney’s estate.

Ms Devine claims the will also provided for transfer of the entire share capital of these companies to the companies set up for each of the children’s trusts.

In a letter of wishes, Mr Tunney also said Ms Devine, whom he described as “my assistant”, should be employed for life in the administration of the investment properties and assets on a salary of €40,000 per annum and should have a lifetime right of residence in Classiebawn.

‘Utmost respect’

He also said she should be treated with the “utmost respect, as I have treated her in my lifetime”.

Ms Devine, in an affidavit, said the proposed resolution to remove her as director was preceded by the “cynical and opportunistic appointment” of Mr Lavelle and Mr Barrett to the board of Kerlat.

She said the attitude towards her changed when she indicated she was going to contest Mr Tunney’s will under civil partnership legislation. There was escalation of her marginalisation in an attempt to force her to resign as a director on the basis her civil partnership challenge represented a conflict of interest, she said.

She is entitled to take such a challenge by virtue of the nature and duration of her relationship with Mr Tunney, she said.