Two children of Austin Darragh lose court challenge over will
Son and daughter claimed their father may not have had capacity to make his 2011 will
David Darragh, son of the Late Prof Austin Darragh, pictured leaving the Four Courts. Photograph: Collins
Two adult children of the late well-known doctor, Professor Austin Darragh, have failed in their High Court application seeking that their step-mother provide certain papers to prove a will their father made leaving his estate to her.
Prof Darragh was a highly successful businessman, medical doctor, broadcaster, writer and equestrian enthusiast who was at one time targeted by kidnappers. He died in October 2015 aged 88.
In a will executed in 2011, he left his entire estate to his second wife of 17 years, Anna Darragh (74) of Tara, Co Meath.
David and Adrienne Darragh, two of Prof Darragh’s four surviving children from his first marriage to Terry, who died in 1992, claim their father, among other things, may not have had capacity to make the 2011 will and may have been subjected to undue influence.
They sought court orders directing their step-mother to produce testamentary papers in order to prove the will.
They also wanted to know about an account provided about certain assets including what had happened to more than €7 million from the 2006 sale of land at the rear of the former Darragh home on the Brennanstown Road in Foxrock, Dublin.
Alternatively, they wanted an independent administrator over the estate appointed.
Mrs Darragh denied their claims and asked the court to dismiss their case on grounds including they have no legal standing to challenge the will and had no reasonable cause of action.
On Wednesday, Mr Justice Denis McDonald said there was no basis on which the children would be entitled to succeed in their claim that their step-mother produce testamentary papers.
They could also not succeed in relation to their claim that she had failed to deny on oath her execution of a mutual will with Prof Darragh in 2011.
They must also fail in relation to their claim for an independent administrator on the basis they had no legal standing (locus standii) to do so, he said.
The judge will hear submissions later this month on Mrs Darragh’s application for an order preventing the children from entering any further caveats in relation to the estate.
Earlier in his judgment, he said the children had claimed that in a meeting with Mrs Darragh’s son from her first marriage, Colm McDonnell, in a hotel, on November 30th, 2015, a copy of the will was provided to the Darragh children.
It was alleged that at this meeting it was claimed the proceeds of the sale of an asset in 2006 by Prof Darragh had been “earmarked” by Mrs Darragh to assist her first husband.
“On the basis of the evidence currently before the court, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the allegation is based on pure speculation”, the judge said. He did not believe therefore it was a matter the court can properly have regard to.
He also noted no grounds had been provided by the Darragh children as to why the will should be condemned or as to why Mrs Darragh should be required to prove the will in solemn form of law.
What the children were doing was, he said, seeking evidence to assist them in identifying a sustainable ground on which a challenge to the will might be advanced.
In their proceedings, David Darragh, who lives in Old Bray Road, Shankill, Co Dublin, and Adrienne Darragh, of Bettystown, Co Meath, said their father had assisted both of them in business ventures during his lifetime. In pre-2011 testamentary arrangements, about which he spoke to his housekeeper, he said he had provided for his own children, they said.
They claimed that a single page document provided to them along with the will in 2015 could never have represented a true and fair account of the proceeds of the sale of the Foxrock lands.
Mrs Darragh’s side argued the children were fishing for information, created a fiction that there were mutual wills, and had not produced any evidence to back up the lack of testamentary capacity claim.
Any matters relating to her own estate, including whether she had made a will, were “entirely private matters and confidential to me”, she said.
She had not made a mutual will, and even if she had, any cause of action arising from it would only accrue after her death, she said.