Maureen O’Hara’s former long time friend and power-of-attorney lawyer Carolyn Murphy has hit back at the the O’Hara family and advisors. She did so following accusations of mishandling of business and elder abuse. Murphy maintains her innocence and dedication to O’Hara, and says she has the paperwork to back it all up.
"They have annihilated my name in this community," Murphy said. "I am just not capable of this kind of thing. I can tell you with all my heart and soul, I have not done anything wrong. I would never hurt Maureen.
Recently, in hopes of “setting the record straight,” aging actress O’Hara called a press conference at the Eccles Hotel in Glengarrif. There, she delivered a prepared statement in which she demanded that Murphy turn over all financial records to her accountant.
O’Hara said she recently made “discoveries” which caused “great concern” about Murphy that led the actress to revoke Murphy’s power of attorney.
O’Hara said that she was "damned upset" over the whole situation.
Murphy had no warning of the O’Hara statement, and issued her own short statement through a spokesperson in response.
However, she was so stung by the accusations—which have yet to be officially defined, but are damaging enough to her name and reputation—that she decided offer her own statement on the matter from her home on the outskirts of Bantry. Accompanying her were her son Brendan and husband Bill.
Murphy traced her longstanding relationship with actress Maureen O’Hara back to 1978. The two met at a local environmental awareness project in Bantry that year, and the two “just clicked” according to Murphy. It was just after O’Hara’s husband had died and the actress was sharing her time between America and Glengarriff.
"We just had an affinity to one another,” said Murphy. “I wasn't star struck. She didn't know who I was. But, you know, you just look someone in the eyes—and we just clicked.”
Murphy detailed how despite busy schedules and bustling families, the two always found time for each other from then onward: "She'd always come in June and go home before October. She'd always have family around her and I had a lot of children too. We were very busy but we'd always manage to have a lunch together or a dinner together and just talk about real-life things, not movies, or anything. We were just friends.”
"When I had the restaurant, she would come two or three times a week. I was really, really busy those years. But we still managed to get time together. She spent a lot of time in the house with us. We've been very, very close friends since then."
It wasn’t until 2004 that O’Hara initially turned to Murphy for help in handling the actress’s business affairs, a duty which Murphy claims to have never accepted wages for, but only an occasional €500 to help cover expenses.
Murphy remembers O’Hara asking for her help in 2004: "She [O’Hara] said, can we have a sandwich or something here, Carolyn. I need help and I don't know who to turn to. We sat down and she said: 'I have signed some papers. I've changed my will and I've changed my trust'."
Murphy said that O’Hara indicated she wasn’t happy with the changes made. Murphy agreed to help O’Hara, and the two flew together to the US were they had O’Hara’s original will and trust reinstated.
Two years later in 2006, O’Hara asked Murphy to accept power of attorney over the actress’s complex business and financial affairs in the wake of her ailing health and doctor’s orders against foreign travel. Bound by confidentiality, Murphy is barred from speaking about the details of O’Hara’s affairs.
"We talked about what needed to be done. I never did anything without asking Maureen first. I never spent a penny without asking her," said Murphy, who was only paid €500 "every now and again" to cover her expenses, but wouldn't take a regular payment.
"I really have to say on behalf of Maureen, at least three times a year for the last eight years she has offered me wages, which I continually turned down," she said.
Murphy explained how her position as power of attorney for Maureen O’Hara incited some friction between her and the rest of O’Hara’s family. However, she noted that due to legal reasons, she couldn’t elaborate much further than that.
"I am in a strange position,” said Murphy. “My hands are tied because of the confidentiality of my position."
In April of this year, O’Hara’s nephew Charlie Fitzsimons lodged a complaint with local authorities claiming elder abuse and that his aunt was being overworked. A social worker followed up with the complaint, which resulted in O’Hara dismissing the claims and signing a statement indicating that she was happy to do public appearances with Murphy as her attorney.
"There is nothing scandalous about us or our behaviour, or what we are trying to do,” said O’Hara in the wake of the accusations and following investigation.
In late May of this year, which was around the last time that Murphy spoke with O’Hara, O’Hara’s longtime family accountant Pablo O’Neill and American lawyer came to Glengarriff to check into O’Hara’s affairs.
Rumors soon began to circulate around town about Murphy, though formal accusations were never made.
However, soon after the visit, lawyers acting on behalf of O’Hara’s instructions wrote Murphy to inform her that her power of attorney had been revoked, something that Murphy has since refused to accept. She hired lawyer Frank Buttimer and plans to head for the High Court in Dublin to have her position legally clarified.
Some have questioned why Murphy doesn’t just walk away from the situation, to which Murphy says she is “honor-bound.” She plans on heading to the High Courts in Dublin with her long paper-trail to prove her innocence and reclaim her position.
Still, Murphy looks fondly on the days she spent with O’Hara as both her friend and confidant.
Murphy reminisces fondly about her and O’Hara’s frequent Friday “date nights:” “Friday nights were our date nights. Bill picked Maureen and I up at her house on Friday nights, and she got dressed up beautiful for him. She just loved Bill Murphy. I think her heart must be broken right now. She had her own little corner in Casey's Hotel. We say she's holding court," said Murphy.
"What was so nice about it was that families came in, with their children, and stopped to say hello to her, and touch her hand. Groups came down from Dublin, men playing golf, they were in there drinking their pints and they would come over and talk to her and sing to her. She spent two hours every Friday night with us in there, and she was a queen and she just thrived on it. And she called it date night."
Murphy’s stories and innocence are backed up by Frank McCarthy, who runs an accountancy practice in Bantry and serves as chief executive of the Maureen O’Hara Foundation. He is similarly perplexed by O’Hara’s statements that the actress’s “dream” for the foundation had been “distorted.”
"I met her in 2009 and I had a long chat with her,” remembers McCarthy. “If I was going to take over formulating this foundation and making sure that the foundation stones were laid correctly, I asked every question in the book of Maureen to make sure I understood her dream.”
In February, McCarthy finished a business plan—free of charge—for the Foundation, which he claims he walked through in detail with O’Hara.
“I was personally flabbergasted because there was no way I saw this coming from this business plan and two years of my work. I never saw that coming. It's out of the blue. It's like a bolt of lightning to me.”
"This is her dream and I'm involved with it two-a-half years. This is her dream,” said McCarthy.
"Maureen has spoken to me about what she wanted. Her legacy is not a museum. Her legacy is all about children," he said. "The foundation was a separate entity charged with fulfilling Maureen's dream. If we had decisions to make, I would ask Maureen."
Says McCarthy of Murphy, “I think it is disgraceful to go for trial by media. I do not believe them. I am working two-and-a-half years with Carolyn and her reputation and professionalism is impeccable.”
Similarly, other members of the Glengarriff community have come out in support of Murphy’s service to O’Hara over the years.
Mary Twomy, a retired school teacher from Bantry and long time friend of O’Hara, notes Murphy’s positive impact on the aging actress’s life: “I can see the difference in Maureen since Carolyn has taken over. I saw a massive change in Maureen's demeanour, and her quality of life. She was alive, and content and had peace of mind. You couldn't but notice the difference."
However, O’Hara’s nephew Charlie Fitzsimons, who now holds co-power of attorney for his aunt, accuses Murphy of not involving the family enough in decision making situations. Murphy insists that every decision has gone through O’Hara and her advisors, and that she has the paper records to prove it all.
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