herald

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Debt-ridden housing hero forced to sell up

Debt-hit Irish charity hero Niall Mellon, who built 15,000 homes for the poor, is selling a house close to his heart.

The Dublin developer and philanthropist has spoken candidly about being "financially challenged" and is now selling off his country mansion and estate for just half of what he invested in the property.

Mellon (43) is selling Coolmore mansion and 242 acres near Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, for €3.7m through Colliers International. Five years ago, he was understood to have paid more than €6m for it.

He also spent very large sums on the estate, including 4km of cobble-lock pathways. He has extensive property interests in Ireland and Britain.

The generous businessman founded the Niall Mellon Township Trust in 2002 to build decent homes for poor families who previously lived in shacks in South Africa.



challenged

He inspired thousands of Irish people to travel to Cape Town to work as volunteers building the new homes for the impoverished inhabitants. The charity has been praised for Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu and Niall has been honoured by universities and Dublin City Council.

On the charity's own website, he has spoken frankly about his personal finances which have been significantly affected by the Irish property market crash.

He said he sold a number of key assets ahead of the property fall. But, he added: "It would be fair to say I am a little financially challenged at the moment.

"But I am doing the best I can to stay afloat and having got through the last 18 months when several of my peers have fallen, I am still standing."

He is determined his financial pressures will not detract from the work being done by the home-building charity.

He declared: "After the past 18 months I feel strong enough to tackle any challenge!

"I have repeatedly said that nothing that happens in this recession will dent my commitment to helping the poor.

"I am lucky to have the support of a great many people, not least my wife Nicola and my three beautiful little sons."

And in a statement issued in March, he said: "As a property-based businessman, it is very difficult if not impossible to borrow against one's property assets, and I am doing everything I can as a responsible person to honour my debts and pay them off...

"Over the past two years I have used all my personal funds to pay off almost all my business creditors, except long-term bank loans, regardless of whether those debts were in a company structure or not. That is the most any decent person can do in the current climate."

In July, a Victorian mansion bought by the developer beside Marlay Park in Rathfarnham burned down. It was uninsured. A distressed Mr Mellon said the fire was "a wanton act of vandalism". As a listed building, it must be restored.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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