Wednesday 28 September 2016

Another two weeks at Gorse Hill as O'Donnells prepare for fresh appeal

Published 16/04/2015 | 02:30

Solicitor Brian O’Donnell leaves Gorse Hill to attend the Court of Appeal, where he was told he has no legal right to stay in the Killiney mansion at the centre of a court battle
Solicitor Brian O’Donnell leaves Gorse Hill to attend the Court of Appeal, where he was told he has no legal right to stay in the Killiney mansion at the centre of a court battle
The O’Donnells have been told to leave Gorse Hill

Bankrupt solicitor Brian O'Donnell has been given another two weeks to stay on at the Gorse Hill mansion after the Court of Appeal allowed him to lodge a further appeal, this time to the Supreme Court.

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He has also been directed to pay all costs of the Court of Appeal hearing, covering those of Bank of Ireland.

The O'Donnells now have permission to remain on at the Killiney mansion until noon on April 29.

The solicitor, who owes the bank over €71m, appeared at the Four Courts accompanied by his son, Blake.

The pair, who were again acting as their own legal representatives, sat at the end of a bench occupied by a legal team for the Bank of Ireland.

Several members of the self-styled Land League, including leader Jerry Beades, were at the back of the court room to offer support to the O'Donnells.

However, none of Mr O'Donnell's daughters were present in court.

In a carefully-measured judgement, Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan said she understood how such a decision made by the bank would be a "cause of great emotional distress for the family".

However, she ruled the High Court decision was correct and that the O'Donnells were required to vacate the Vico Road mansion.

She noted that Mr O'Donnell and his wife Mary Pat O'Donnell had not lived at the property since the end of 2011 and had only returned at the end of February this year.

She said there was "an inevitable inference" that the couple had only returned from the UK to prevent the receiver taking possession.

Mr and Mrs O'Donnell had decided that Gorse Hill should be acquired by them through an Isle of Man company, Vico Limited (a company owned by the discretionary trust set up by the O'Donnell parents in favour of their children), and that under this agreement, they were allowed to live there with their children, the judge told the court.

However, the court ruled that Vico Ltd's possession of the house ceased on March 2 last following the Supreme Court's decision on a legal action taken by the O'Donnell children.

Cian Ferriter SC, for the bank, asked the court to give them possession of the house at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr O'Donnell told the court there was an issue with the keys, saying: "The keys are not ours, they belong to Vico Ltd and so they will have to be returned to Vico Ltd."

However, Ms Justice Geoghegan said firmly that the court "was not dealing with that issue at all".

Mr O'Donnell said he would be appealing the decision and asked for time to put together an appeal.

However, Mr Ferriter argued that the O'Donnells had had "two bites of the cherry" and "can't be in a position to have another third go at a hearing".

And he argued that they had suffered "no irreversible injustice" if they were required to vacate Gorse Hill.

Allowing them to appeal would set "quite a dangerous precedent," he said.

The court rose briefly in the morning to allow the bank's legal team to decide on a date by which the O'Donnells should vacate Gorse Hill.

When it resumed, it was agreed that they would be allowed to remain on at the house until noon on April 29.

The hearing was then further adjourned until 4pm when it resumed to hear the court's ruling on costs.

At that point, Mr O'Donnell told the court that he had not been aware that the "rules had changed" and that he would require a longer stay, "even up to 12 weeks", because he would not be permitted to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court before 28 days.

However, Ms Justice Geoghegan said the court had been aware of the procedures and that this was merely a rule of court and so no more than two weeks would be required.

Mr Ferriter formally applied for the legal costs of the bank to be paid by the O'Donnells.

Mr O'Donnell responded by seeking his costs to be paid by the bank on the basis that he had written a letter to the bank's solicitors, Arthur Cox in December, described by the court as 'an olive branch' to reach an agreement on costs.

He had not received a reply, Mr O'Donnell claimed.

However, Mr Ferriter argued that this letter pre-dated the Court of Appeal hearing and so had no bearing.

The court ordered Mr O'Donnell to pay all costs of the appeal process.

Irish Independent

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