Sunday 25 September 2016

Ending to Gorse Hill saga was long overdue

Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30

Had Mr O’Donnell been a small businessman living in a modest home, it is likely that there would have been more sympathy for him – which may be unfair
Had Mr O’Donnell been a small businessman living in a modest home, it is likely that there would have been more sympathy for him – which may be unfair

For an experienced lawyer, especially one such as Brian O'Donnell who amassed an international property portfolio estimated to be worth some €800m, to assert that the courts are some sort of lottery is a novel idea.

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Mr O'Donnell said: "We've been in court 82 times and we've lost 82 times - statistically that's impossible."

Does he not think that sometimes you are wrong, and no matter how many times you bang your head off the courtroom door the judges will not change the verdict?

After leaving his opulent Gorse Hill home in Killiney yesterday - which was later repossessed - he proceeded to the annual general meeting of Bank of Ireland and handed the keys of the house to the bank's chief executive Richie Boucher.

One feels that the shareholders of Bank of Ireland are not really that interested in who lives in Gorse Hill, what really interests them is who will pay the debts associated with Mr O'Donnell's property portfolio, because that is what their already decimated share price depends on if they are to get back any of the money that was incinerated when the bank's shares plunged to virtually nothing.

Had Mr O'Donnell been a small businessman living in a modest home, it is likely that there would have been more sympathy for him - which may be unfair, but that's an argument for another day.

What is not at issue is that Mr O'Donnell went to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, in the course of those 82 appearances. He was, of course, entitled to take as many actions as he liked, but it did take up a lot of court time that could have been devoted to other issues. He has now finally and, it would seem, irrevocably lost his interest in Gorse Hill. The Supreme Court's judgments must be respected.

The slightly-jaded public might now wish for Mr O'Donnell and his family, who are all now semi-public figures as a result of the Gorse Hill stand-off, to move on with their lives and for the bank to sell the property they so lavishly developed over the years. The Gorse Hill saga has, in many ways, been a distraction to the real issues surrounding debt write-offs and repossession.

Sea change in way we do health insurance

Midnight is the deadline for those aged 35 and over to take out private health insurance under the old system, or face a penalty if they wish to take it out in the future.

Ireland's health insurance has suffered because Lifetime Community Ratings ensured that there was no age discrimination. However, the shocking rise in premium costs and the fact that over a hundred thousand people have left because of financial circumstances, means that this system is not sustainable - if it ever was.

The quandary many healthy people will now find themselves in is, do they gamble on good health or decide to take out insurance?

For some, it makes sense to buy basic cover, which can be bumped up as they age. But there is no easy answer. While we all know the hard cases, we are less likely to hear about the thousands who are processed through the public health system with reasonable efficiency every week.

It comes down to choice and money. But midnight tonight will mark a sea change in the way we do health insurance and those already paying dearly for the privilege will hope that it does something to stabilise premiums.

Irish Independent

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