Judge: court orders must not be defied by 'mob rule'
A SENIOR High Court judge has warned that if "mob rule" is allowed to prevail by people refusing to obey court orders, then Ireland is on "a slippery slope to anarchy".
High Court Judge Mr Justice Brian McGovern (pictured) spoke about a "worrying trend" where people apparently tried to prevent the execution of court orders by turning up in court in large numbers.
Others might appear at sites where banks and creditors have received court orders to repossess land and property.
Judge McGovern manages the weekly High Court bankruptcy list and deals with commercial and banking disputes.
He was responding last night to questions about the so-called "Freemen of the Land" (FMOTL) movement at the inaugural Student Legal Convention held at University College Dublin.
There have been more than 100 cases in the last year in which borrowers have used versions of Freemen arguments to resist possession by receivers and banks.
The Freemen claim, among other things, that they don't recognise the authority of the courts.
Judge McGovern wondered if the purpose of the "unfortunate trend" where groups gather in large numbers at the back of courtrooms was "to try and intimidate the judge".
"Court orders have to be obeyed, it's as simple as that," said Judge McGovern.
" If we get to the point where a mob can appear in court or a mob can appear on land to resist a lawful order of the courts, well then the rule of law ceases to apply any more and then we are in the realm of anarchy".
Judge McGovern said it is very important that the message goes out that court orders must be obeyed.
"I sometimes feel that while these things may have an innocent enough beginning, they do get out of hand," he added.
Judge McGovern also told lawyers and students that the prospects for Ireland's new personal insolvency regime were "promising" and could lead to a reduction in bankruptcy tourism.
The judge said it is "immediately apparent" that the number of debtors seeking self-adjudication has significantly increased since the bankruptcy regime was reformed.
Former banker and TD Peter Matthews said that hundreds of thousands of debtors had become "financial galley slaves" and estimated the Irish banking system needed another €53bn to deal with household and SME debt.
Other speakers at the convention, sponsored by Dublin law firm A&L Goodbody, included Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn, Supreme Court judge Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne and Billy Hawkes, the Data Protection Commissioner.