Controversy is linked to dispute between two Dunne siblings


THE developments which have ended the ministerial career of the former

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications are linked to the fall out in the dispute between Mr Ben Dunne and his sister, Ms Margaret Heffernan.

The Price Waterhouse report which contains details of financial dealings between Mr Lowry and Mr Dunne was drafted after Mr Dunne was ousted from his position as chairman of Dunnes Stores in 1993.

Ms Heffernan, who took over from her brother Ben, instigated an investigation into business dealings which had been carried out by him. One of the complaints made by Ms Heffernan during the battle to oust her brother was that he was making independent business decisions without informing the board.

In October 1993, during a court battle between Mr Dunne and his siblings on the board, Ms Heffernan, Ms Therese Dunne and Mr Frank Dunne, Ms Heffernan told the High Court of a buying spree which Mr Dunne had made the previous year in Singapore, involving £20 million.

She also complained that Mr Dunne had appointed many persons at salaries over £30,000 without board approval.

The affair which led to the fall of Mr Lowry occurred when some details of Mr Dunne's dealings with Mr Lowry, as documented in the Price Waterhouse report, were published in the Irish Independent.

Two years ago, Mr Ben Dunne agreed a deal whereby he was to be paid a reputed £125 million for his shares in Dunnes Stores Ltd. The matter was settled before it came to court. Had it gone to court it is likely that information contained in the Price Waterhouse report would have been disclosed.

Mr Dunne's removal from the position of chairman occurred after one of his sisters, Ms Therese Dunne, switched her allegiance from him to Ms Heffernan.

Ms Dunne died in September last year. She left an estate of £21 million. The published value of her estate did not include the value of her one fifth shareholding in Dunnes because of the shares trust status. The shares, with an estimated value of £125 million were left to Ms Heffernan.

Mr Ben Dunne is now taking legal action against Ms Heffernan in relation to a disagreement over the estate of his late sister.

Once again a legal action threatens to open up the usually publicity shy family to the public gaze.

During the current controversy arising out of the disclosure in the media of Mr Lowry's business dealings with Mr Ben Dunne, both Mr Dunne and Ms Heffernan have declined to comment.

Requests for a comment left at Mr Dunne's home in Castleknock, Co Dublin, yesterday met with no response. Ms Heffernan is said to be out of the State.

A spokesman for Dunnes Stores said it would not be commenting on the controversy. It does not comment on "private business dealings". In relation to the Price Waterhouse report and whether it would be given to the Revenue Commissioners, he would only say that such matters concerned Dunnes Stores and the Revenue Commissioners and there would be no public comment.