American billionaire John Malone among those seeking exemption from vacant land levy

Media businessman wants to delist residential zoned land on part of his stud at the Castlemartin estate in Co Kildare

American media billionaire John Malone is seeking a tax exemption on some of the land in the 750-acre Co Kildare estate he acquired from Sir Anthony O’Reilly before Sir Anthony’s bankruptcy.

Mr Malone, who is reputed to own more US land than anyone else, wants to delist residential zoned land on the outskirts of his Castlemartin estate from a new tax that is supposed to spur house-building on vacant property.

He says the land in question, in Kilcullen, is used as an “essential paddocks” for the estate stud farm and should therefore be removed from Kildare County Council draft tax maps. After spending more than €10 million on stud farm development, his company Clementville says the tax charge “could drive such investment” from Kilcullen.

“It cannot reasonably be the intention of legislation to break up the integrated stud farm that comprises Castlemartin stud farm or to undermine such employment and investment,” said the company, which runs the stud farm.


The Government introduced the residential zoned land tax in an attempt to spur house-building on vacant sites. By imposing the annual charge on unused property with residential zoning Ministers hoped to encourage owners to build homes instead of allowing such land to lie dormant.

Clementville was one of 63 landowners seeking changes from Kildare council, which is responsible for mapping where the tax will be imposed on some of the most valuable vacant resident land in the Dublin commuter belt.

The historic U-shaped mansion at Castlemartin was built in 1720. Sir Anthony took possession in 1972, refurbishing the house. He restored a 15th century chapel in the grounds and buried his parents in private graveyard nearby.

Although Sir Anthony regarded Castlemartin as his “spiritual home” he sold the property to Mr Malone after a Allied Irish Banks debt judgment that led to his 2015 bankruptcy in the Bahamas. Mr Malone, chairman of Liberty Global, is said to have paid close to €28 million.

There was no comment from Clementville, whose submission does not quantify the area of the subject lands, which are in the middle of a residential strip, opposite Moanbane Park in Kilcullen.

“Notwithstanding the zoning of this land as residential, it is not the case that the land is being hoarded. [Rather] it is being used for enterprise and employment,” the company said. “Since the land was purchased by the current owners in 2015 they have invested over €10 million in further developing the stud farm, and employment numbers have doubled and continue to increase.”

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times