Bank chases football legend for €853,463 development loan
A FAILED property investment has left Meath football legend Colm O'Rourke on the hook to pay €853,463 to National Irish Bank (NIB).
The bank has gone to the High Court to legally force Mr O'Rourke -- who is a well-known GAA pundit and school principal -- to repay the loan, which he took out with three local businessmen to develop a shopping centre, 375 houses and apartments, a pub, restaurant, nursing home and creche on the outskirts of Navan, Co Meath.
NIB also moved against Mr O'Rourke's three partners in the development, local businessmen John Farrelly, James O'Reilly and Joseph O'Reilly.
They each owe €853,463 in respect of a €3.5m loan that they took out from the bank.
The group paid about €16m for the 70-acre side in 2006 and borrowed the €3.5m from NIB to cover the costs associated with securing full planning permission. The men each had an equal shareholding in the property. The legal action relates to this NIB loan.
Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr O'Rourke declined to say how the four men originally financed the site's purchase or whether they had offered personal guarantees.
The GAA pundit is listed as the co-owner of the lands with Mr O'Reilly. There are also loans from Irish Nationwide attached to this property. Mr O'Rourke said these loans had nothing to do with the judgment and were not subject to any court proceedings.
Mr O'Rourke said he was "surprised" the bank had published the judgment as the four men were still in talks with NIB about repaying what they owed.
"They got the judgment last year but we had an agreement it wouldn't be published for a period of time during which negotiations would continue about repaying the loan," he said yesterday.
"A substantial offer was made to the bank and those negotiations were continuing.
"Everybody was negotiating with the bank to repay the money so it is a surprise to us that this has been published."
Having a court judgment against him wasn't "the best position" for him to be in, Mr O'Rourke added.
The football legend is the principal of St Patrick's Classical School in Navan, where he met Leaving Cert students yesterday as they collected their exam results.
The proposed shopping centre site at Clonmagadden, Navan, was to be built on farmland that had been included in Meath County Council's development plan.
When the men purchased the land planning was virtually guaranteed, according to Mr O'Rourke, and their plans for the site just had to go for public inspection. But during this process objections emerged and were submitted to An Bord Pleanala.
Two years ago the board overturned the planning permission, saying it would create "serious traffic congestion" on the inner relief road in Navan. It also criticised the layout of the development as "unacceptable".
The planning U-turn, which Meath County Council described as a "crazy decision" that would damage Meath's prospects for growth, ultimately put an end to the consortium's ambitious plans.
"That process took far too long," Mr O'Rourke said.
This five-year battle between the site's owners and the planning authorities incurred enormous costs for the four men that were financed by the NIB loan. Mr O'Rourke said the site remained as farmland and that the group could seek planning permission for it again.