Neven Maguire on the UVF bombs that closed his family restaurant

Neven Maguire on Brexit, the Troubles and dance music

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Celebrity chef Neven Maguire has spoken of how the restaurant owned by his parents was virtually destroyed when loyalist paramilitaries targeting gardaí planted a bomb nearby in the 1970s.

The chef proprietor of MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, Co Cavan told The Irish Times new Borderlines podcast about the impact of the Troubles on his family.

“The whole front of our restaurant was bombed twice with the UVF. They parked up a car and it was a kind of like a car bomb just getting at the guards. Now we did get warning, no one was injured thank God but it was difficult times, it definitely was,” he said.

As a consequence the restaurant was closed from 1973, the year Maguire was born, and when it reopened in 1989 the Troubles were still going.


“We always grew up with it. I remember there was 59 guards in Blacklion. There was soldiers there, there was a checkpoint just outside our restaurant. You looked out the window, it wasn’t pretty to be honest with you.

“Guests might have felt a little bit – not intimidated – but when you’re coming from different parts of Ireland, when you’re not used to it. Even in Enniskillen [Co Fermanagh] I vaguely remember the town being closed off in the evening. So they were some difficult times and literally we’re 30 seconds from the Border,” he said.

“I do have lots of memories but they’re not all bad. It’s just part of life and part of the way we grew up, because we’re so near the Border...Certain times of the year might have been a little bit challenging, but to me it’s just where I grew up and I’m proud of it.”

Maguire said Brexit had put some unexpected obstacles in the way of those involved in the hospitality business.

“Brexit…it’s a big question. I’m in no way political, in any way, but I definitely think, I hope it works out because it’s a worrying time for business, so it is.

“When you can’t get produce and you have to open your business, with Covid thrown in among the mix, it’s very challenging, it definitely is.”

He had not foreseen how the UK’s departure from the EU would impact on wine imports.

“I’ll tell you one thing I learned…with Brexit now getting wine in has been challenging. So that’s one thing we didn’t think of, to be truthful with you. We didn’t think we’d be affected by so many small little obstacles.

“But I think they’re all workable, I really do, it just means that us as a company we have to buy in bulk a little bit more. So we have to make sure that we sell the wine, if you know what I mean, so we have to buy upfront. And that’s okay. We can work ’round that. Once we’re told that we can work with our suppliers.”

During the coronavirus lockdown, Maguire reconnected with his hobby of DJing with the old school dance, trance and hard house vinyl records he collected in his younger days.

“It’s something I never spoke about for maybe 25 years because as I got busier I had to put all that aside…People think, ‘Where did this come? Neven’s a raver!’ But I always enjoyed this music, so I did, and...I’ve fallen in love back with the music, so it’s great.”

“I’ve got a lot of offers to go and play here and play there. No. I’ll be in my restaurant, I’ll be playing it. Some of the staff love the music, some of them don’t, they probably think what has happened to this man in lockdown? But you know what? It actually kept me going.”

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Features Editor of The Irish Times