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Family behind Ballyseedy Group ‘determined’ to continue despite chief executive’s drug charge

Nathan McDonnell (43), Tralee, charged after half tonne of crystal meth, worth €32.8 million, found at Cork Port last Friday week

The family behind the Ballyseedy Group, whose home and garden centre in Tralee, Co Kerry, was at the centre of Garda searches following the seizure of a half tonne of crystal meth, has said it is determined to continue its business.

Nathan McDonnell, the chief executive of the group established more than 30 years ago, was one of two men who appeared in court last Friday to face criminal charges in connection with the seizure at Cork Port, valued at €32.8 million. The married father of three has denied involvement.

“Having worked tirelessly to provide a local, hospitable service to the people of Tralee and Kerry at Ballyseedy Home and Garden Centre since its foundation in 1992, the family are devastated at the events that have transpired in recent days,” the McDonnell family said in a statement published on social media.

It apologised to the centre’s employees and customers “for any inconvenience caused by these events”, adding its focus was now on “trying to protect the 140 roles” within the company.


“We remain steadfast in our determination to keep the company trading and to regain the trust of the local community by providing a service that is built on honesty, integrity and hard work.” The family added it would “not be making any further comment at this time” but would release a further statement if necessary in the future.

Mr McDonnell (43) of Ballyroe, Tralee, is charged that between October 27th, 2023, and February 12th, 2024, at Ballyseedy Garden Centre, Tralee, Co Kerry, he had in his possession methylamphetamine, with a market value of €13,000 or more, for sale or supply in contravention of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and contrary to section 15a of the Misuse of Drugs Acts.

James Leen (41) of Pilgrim Hill, Kilmorna, Listowel, Co Kerry, is charged with the same offence, though he has no connection whatever to the Ballyseedy Group. He is further charged that on October 16th, 2023, at Cork Port, Ringaskiddy, Co Cork, he did import methylamphetamine with a value of €13,000 or more contrary to section 15 (b) of the Misuse of Drugs Act.

On his own social media profiles, Mr McDonnell describes himself as chief executive of the Ballyseedy Group as well as founder of Smaash Burger and as a former president of Tralee Chamber Alliance.

The Ballyseedy Group’s flagship store is Ballyseedy Home and Garden just outside Tralee. It has also operated three additional cafes in partnership with Dairygold, in Raheen, Co Limerick, as well as Midleton and Carrigaline, both in Co Cork.

The drug shipment, discovered in a container at the port last Friday week, is believed to have been imported into the State and was intended to be exported.

After the discovery of the drugs was made, searches were carried out in Kerry, Cork and Waterford city. While the searches were led by the Garda, they also involved the Defence Forces, such was the extent of the searching undertaken in the days after the drugs were found.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times