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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
Alexis Sanchez missed a penalty before scoring the opening goal with a header at the back post
footballLive! Sanchez makes up for penalty miss to put Arsenal ahead
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Rooney celebrates with striker-partner Radamel Falcao after the pair combine to put United ahead
footballManchester United vs Newcastle match report
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all