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QUEEN OF SHEEP LEAVES pounds 1M TO HERO MINISTER; He gives it back to family.

Byline: JENNY FRIEL

AN ECCENTRIC shepherdess left her estate worth almost pounds 1million to Government Minister Eamonn O'Cuiv - but he's given it all back to her family.

Bina McLoughlin was such a huge fan of Mr O'Cuiv - and his grandfather Eamonn De Valera - she left him her house and land.

But the Minister decided to hand the estate to her sisters Bridget and Lena and two nephews.

Bina, from Connemara in Co Galway, said before her death: "There was nothing done around here until Eamonn got elected.

"I hope I'll live to see the day when he is Taoiseach."

The Minister heard of the windfall just after attending her funeral. Yesterday, he confirmed he'd been left the estate but wouldn't comment further. Bina's last will and testament came as no surprise to those who knew her.

She loved the Minister's grandfather for ending British evictions in Ireland. Her grandparents had been evicted in the Famine.

Bina - who claimed to be Ireland's only shepherdess - was one of the most colourful and best liked characters in the West and was known as the Queen of Connemara.

Born in the Leenane mountains in the Connemara Gaeltacht, she was buried there two weeks ago after falling ill before Christmas.

No-one knew her age, except that she had been around for years.

Spinster Bina was a regular at events like the Bogman's Ball, the Connemara Pony Show and the October Fair.

She was unmissable in her colourful regalia, her trademark bandana, her chains and rings.

A noted singer, she never drank or smoked but enjoyed a rich social life. She was deeply religious, had strong political views and was famous for her good-natured eccentricity .

While she lived in a house with no running water, cracked windows and borrowed furniture she talked and behaved as if she had just won the lottery.

A fire at her house, just outside Leenane, in January 1995 robbed her of almost all her possessions.

CAPTION(S):

FORTUNE: Bina McLoughlin
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 28, 2001
Words:329
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