The future of the Maureen O’Hara Foundation is in doubt as its representatives hit back at claims this weekend that it had misappropriated funds.
In response to an investigation by the Irish Examiner, the foundation, which is based in Glengarriff, Co Cork said in a statement that its sole focus has been the development of a €12.5m legacy centre for Maureen O’Hara. The foundation attracted support from fellow Hollywood stars such as Colin Farrell, Liam Neeson, Jeremy Irons, Helen Mirren, and Mia Farrow.
The Dublin born actress, who starred alongside John Wayne in ‘The Quiet Man’ celebrates her 92nd birthday this coming Friday.
Last month, organizers announced they had cancelled the annual Maureen O’Hara Classic Film Festival. In a statement on the foundation’s website, which has been disabled, the board announced they were to cancel the festival due to circumstances outside of their control.
“We hope to be in a position to reorganise again next year when all external issues have been resolved,” the statement added.
In response to allegations that funds of foundation had been misappropriated a statement said: "We take this opportunity to refute all suggestions of impropriety by the foundation. Suggestions and innuendo of financial appropriation and misappropriation is without merit and have hurt the foundation, its representatives and Ms O’Hara herself."
According to the Irish Examiner, O’Hara’s new legal team had made demands that the foundation report how the funds had been allocated.
The credibility of the foundation came into question in May when rumors of elder abuse against O’Hara emerged.
During a press conference in early May, the Hollywood actress denied that she had been the victim of elder abuse.
“This is coming from people with nothing better to do, there is nothing scandalous about us or our behavior, or what we are trying to do,” O’Hara told Ireland’s Sunday Independent newspaper.
Later in mid July, the news came that O’Hara had fired her long time friend and personal assistant Carolyn Murphy.
Accompanied by her grandson Conor Fitzsimons and her New York lawyer Edward Fickless, O’Hara told journalists during a press conference: “I am heartbroken.”
“I trusted Carolyn Murphy, not only as my personal assistant, but also as my power of attorney for the past six years. I have recently made discoveries that give me grave concern regarding Carolyn Murphy’s handling of my affairs. I am astonished that she ignores pleas to provide the information we need to reconcile financial and personal property audits regarding those years.
“I recently revoked all aspects of the power of attorney, which I had formerly entrusted to Carolyn, and she is no longer my personal assistant. I also underwent testing to certify my own competence in conducting my affairs, and I am assisted by family members, trusted lawyers and accountants.”
In response, Murphy said she was deeply disappointed, heartbroken and hurt by the false allegations and rumours surrounding the Maureen O’Hara Foundation.
The former PA said in a statement: "I cherish Maureen’s vision and dream. Her legacy is the precious seeds and blueprint for her ultimate achievements. A thing that can not ever be stolen or taken.
"I am very honoured to work with a group of people whose shared spirit of giving, passion and commitment is an expression of the true love for Ireland’s greatest actress, a great lady and a real legend."
Charles Fitzsimons, who resigned as the director of foundation, told the Sunday Independent that the organization had “outrageously misinterpreted her [Maureen O’Hara’s] dream”.
Commenting on the future of the foundation, the board of directors said the credibility had been tarnished.
"Unfortunately, recent media coverage seems committed to discredit the foundation by whatever means possible.
"Whist the reason for this action is wholly unclear, it is nevertheless causing the foundation considerable difficulty in terms of its credibility and in progressing with its objectives," the foundation said.
O’Hara’s stepson Chris Blair, who is a director of the American arm of the foundation, expressed concern over the future of the organization.
"The current difficulties are beyond distressing, and I certainly hope that all questions can be cleared up through independent review as quickly as possible.
"With so much uncertainty about the future, I think it is impossible to move the organisation and its mission forward until this is accomplished.”
Meanwhile, Maureen O’Hara has said she has no interaction with the day to day running of the operation.
"Regarding the Maureen O’Hara Foundation, while that entity bears my name, I am not personally involved in its management or operations," O’Hara said.