Saturday 20 January 2018

Brothers settle court dispute as art worth €200,000 is returned

Grainne Cunningham and Tim Healy

AN art collector yesterday said he was relieved at being reunited with nine paintings -- worth around €200,000 -- which were taken from his office seven years ago as part of a dispute with his brother.

Patrick O'Reilly, who now lives at the Four Seasons Hotel, said that although he would like to resolve the long-running feud with his brother Liam "eventually", the relationship was "dead at the moment".

Among the works, all by abstract artist John Shinners, was Mr O'Reilly's favourite: 'Little Witch, City Gate'.

"I am relieved to see them all again; they are like babies," he said.

Mr O'Reilly said he did not have space to hang all the returned works in his own home but would put them in other properties he owns.

He has been collecting works of art for many years and now has about 400 pieces, including the largest private collection of John Shinners.

The nine works, which vanished from Patrick O'Reilly's Taxback office on Crosses Green, Cork, in early 2004, were returned to him at the hotel by courier on Thursday, in their frames and undamaged, just after High Court proceedings by him against his brother got under way.

Mr O'Reilly said he believed he had been burgled when an employee telephoned him to tell him the paintings were gone.


He called gardai but then heard his brother had them. In May 2008, the paintings had an estimated value of €198,000.

The High Court was told yesterday the dispute had been settled but Richard Kean SC, for Patrick O'Reilly, said his client was seeking his legal costs.

Mr O'Reilly had claimed Liam, a retired bank manager of Hattyfield Downs, Beaumont, Cork, had threatened to burn the paintings if he was not given €500,000. He sought injunctions against his brother seeking the return of the paintings along with damages.

Over the years, Mr O'Reilly collected over 32 works by John Shinners, hanging them in his office and his Malahide home.

In court, Mr Justice Michael Hanna said he did not know how he could have measured damages over "artistic deprivation". He was sorry to see what had come to pass between two brothers and while he did not propose to award damages, Patrick O'Reilly was entitled to costs.

Liam O'Reilly was not in court yesterday.

Patrick said while he was concerned about the devaluation of the paintings, he agreed with his counsel that what he wanted to do was "mark his disapproval" of what his brother had done.

"I am shocked he did not turn up (in court) because he has been huffing and puffing for the last seven years."

Mr Justice Hanna declined a request from Patrick O'Reilly's counsel for an undertaking that there be no further interference with the paintings, saying: "You have them."

Irish Independent

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