Celebrated Irish chef convicted over child pornography

One of Europe's most famous cookery schools faces an uncertain future after its co-founder severed all connections with it because of his conviction on paedophile charges.

Tim Allen began the internationally renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School in Co Cork with his wife, Darina, now Ireland's most famous cook. He was caught in the same police inquiry that led to the arrest of the rock star Pete Townshend in Britain.

The conviction of Allen last week is also an embarrassment to the equally renowned Ballymaloe House Hotel, winner of countless awards, which is run by his family and founded by his parents, both Quakers.

But despite his actions the furore may not die down quickly. His relatively light sentence has been condemned by Irish politicians and children's charities while there are reports that some bookings for the school have been cancelled. He is also reported to have temporarily left his wife and four children.

Allen, 52, was arrested in May last year as part of the Irish element of the same worldwide police inquiry that has stemmed from the United States investigation into the Landslide portal, which allowed credit-card subscribers access to dozens of paedophile sites operated in Russia and Indonesia.

The extension of the investigation in Britain, known as Operation Ore, has led to the arrest of Mr Townshend and charges against two of the police officers involved in the Soham inquiry. Dozens more police officers, a judge, doctors, soldiers and a deputy prison governor were among those who have also been questioned.

Midleton District Court in Co Cork was told that police found hundreds of images of child pornography on three of Allen's computers, including one in the cookery school. After he pleaded guilty, the judge ordered him to do 240 hours of community service and pay a fine of €40,000 (£27,000) to a charity for street children in India.

John Deasy, the justice spokesman for Fine Gael, said Allen's wealth had spared him going to prison. He said: "Anyone convicted of a similar crime would undoubtedly end up with a jail sentence if they did not have the means to pay such a fine. It is extremely worrying that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor."

Although Allen has left the family home, there is no suggestion that the couple have split up and his wife said last week that she was standing by her husband, calling him "a good and decent and honourable man''.

On Sunday, the family issued a statement saying they were concerned at any suggestion that they had viewed the conviction as a trivial matter and expressing their abhorrence of child pornography. Allen also said: "What I did was wrong. I am deeply sorry and I will live with the shame of it for the rest of my life. I greatly appreciate the loving support of my wife and family. I unreservedly apologise for what I did." He said he was severing connections with all of the family businesses. The entire Allen family will find the shame difficult to live with. Their enterprises are known to food-lovers the world over and they are important figures in the local community. Allen is the oldest son of the six children of Myrtle and Ivan Allen, farmers who founded the hotel in the 1960s, which went on to gain many high ratings for both service and food in guides such as Michelin and Egon Ronay; in 1991 Harpers & Queens named it one of the hundred best hotels in the world. Myrtle Allen also launched her own line of foods and has written several cookbooks, all trading on the Ballymaloe name. Her husband died in 1998, but the hotel and farm are still family-run.

Her eldest son and his wife began the cookery school and garden, which is on a different site, in 1983. It was aimed at amateurs and budding professionals. While her husband stayed at home to raise their family, she went on to write cookery books, front several series on Irish television and become a staunch advocate for Irish food. In 1998, she presented A Year in the Ballymaloe Cookery School for Carlton Television in Britain.

Her husband's siblings and their children now also run several other enterprises in the area, including a shop, two cafés, a restaurant, a furniture-making business and a local tour company.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Danish director Lars von Trier
filmEnglish-language series with 'huge' international cast set for 2016
Life and Style
tech
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering