Group behind Mercedes in Ireland paid €1.8m dividend after getting Covid subsidy

Company controlled by the O’Flaherty family paid the dividend to an offshore entity

The Irish family-owned group that distributes Mercedes-Benz cars in Ireland received close to €1.8 million in taxpayer-funded pandemic subsidies last year, but it also paid a similar amount as a dividend to the offshore company that controls the business.

Despite the pandemic, O’Flaherty Holdings, owned by members of the wealthy O’Flaherty family through MML Holdings, recorded a rise in its profits for the year of more than 80 per cent to almost €13.1 million, accounts show.

The group's chief executive, Paddy Finnegan, has been contacted for comment about the payment of the dividend to the O'Flaherty family's company at a time when the companies also accepted large State subsidies from taxpayers. He had not commented at the time of publication.

Earlier in the pandemic some companies, such as stockbroking firm Goodbody and CRH, the building materials giant, announced they would return taxpayer wage subsidies to the State.


Recently-filed accounts for MML suggest that €3.8 million of its rise in profits came from a gain on the winding up of its pension scheme. But profits on its ordinary trading activities still rose over the year by 15 per cent to €9.6 million.

A 15 per cent decline in the O’Flaherty group’s turnover to €228.5 million was partially cushioned by €1.764 million in payments from the State’s pandemic wage subsidy scheme, which contributed towards the wages of workers in businesses that faced closure during lockdown.

MML's accounts give details of this payment, as well as a €1.79 million dividend paid to Hailstone Holdings, the O'Flaherty family-controlled entity in the Isle of Man that sits at the apex of the group.

The accounts signed off in September include a note from the directors on the effects of the pandemic on its performance, saying that “despite the impact that Covid-19 has had on operations to date, the group has maintained a strong balance sheet position”.


Its balance sheet shows that the group’s cash pile at the end of 2020 had grown to €33.2 million from €26.6 million. Its net assets grew over the year by almost €9 million to €270 million, while its accumulated profits stood at €264 million. It employs 310 staff.

O'Flaherty Holdings includes Motor Distributors Limited (MDL), which imports Mercedes-Benz into Ireland. The group also owns a large network of motor dealerships, as well as investment properties.

The group has its roots in a company founded by legendary Irish businessman Stephen O’Flaherty, grandfather of the current generation that owns the business. He built the group in the 1950s after securing the franchise for Ireland and the UK for Volkswagen. He eventually became one of the richest men in Ireland. MDL is no longer a distributor of Volkswagen.

Mark Paul

Mark Paul

Mark Paul is London Correspondent for The Irish Times