Bunhill: Dunne in

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The Independent Online
POOR Ben Dunne. His family company may control a quarter of Ireland's supermarket business but he himself remains accident- prone. Last year he was found guilty of possessing cocaine after a holiday in Florida that featured golf, call girls and the white powder in equal measure. And last week he arrived encased in plaster up to the knees at the agm of his new property vehicle, Dunloe, whose previously wobbly shares have soared since he bought control in March.

However, the Dublin gossip circuit is more interested in the recent ructions that saw him pushed aside as chairman and chief executive of the family business. Nevertheless, he says of his four relatives who control Dunne's Stores: 'I love them and they love me, I think.'

The Dublin rumour mill, which loves conspiracy theories, believes he is increasing the pressure on his siblings through his wife's fledgling retail chain, Buy Right Stores. Backing for the theory came in the form of a full-page ad in Dublin papers last week, which proclaimed: 'The bigger they are, the harder they fall.' It stated that Dunne's had been forced to cut prices in Dublin to compete with Buy Right's rock-bottom prices.

In the meantime, the Dunnes are steadily reinforcing their claim to be Dublin's answer to the Ewings. Ten days ago, a courtroom heard a Dublin Garda claim that summonses against Therese Dunne, Ben's youngest sister and a senior buyer and director of the stores chain, had repeatedly been interfered with - summonses that related to drunk-driving charges following a crash involving her Mercedes in May last year. The claim prompted Dail calls for a high-level Garda investigation.

And Dunne's injuries? He claimed he had crocked both ankles during weight training at home - further grist for the rumour mill.