Activist Gilmore denies contempt of court
A POLITICAL activist claims he had not acted in contempt of court orders restraining interference with bank-appointed receivers to a stud farm.
Ben Gilroy, founder of Direct Democracy Ireland and surprise fourth-place finisher in the Meath East by-election, told the High Court he did not organise a protest last August over the repossession of the farm near Naas in Kildare but was invited on to the land.
But lawyers for the receivers said they had video evidence supporting their claim Mr Gilroy was "centrally involved" in "very unsavoury events" when up to 300 people were "encouraged onto" lands at Kennycourt Stud, Brannockstown.
The receivers also had a promotional film of Mr Gilroy's organisation showing him (Gilroy) giving a speech to the crowd on the lands and a recording of an interview with Mr Gilroy on an Internet radio station where he "took credit" for forcing the receivers off the lands, Michael Howard SC said.
This was not just about economic interest as there was also a photo of a security guard, a man "just doing his job", "being subject to a vicious assault by the mob", he said.
When counsel said that, there were cheers from a number of the dozens of supporters of Mr Gilroy who attended court yesterday when the contempt proceedings came before Mr Justice Sean Ryan.
Mr Gilroy, representing himself, disputed the receivers' claim he was properly served with the orders. He would never break court orders intentionally and had respect for the court, he said.
He said he was invited onto the stud farm lands by Charles Allen - of the Rodolphus Allen private trust set up in an effort to prevent repossession - and had not organised the event on the lands. He was "induced" by legal documents seen by him concerning the lands and was invited there by the "new owners".
"I would not have been there if I thought I was in breach of the order," he said.
Asked by the judge about the events last August, Mr Gilroy said violent conduct "is not in my nature". While he had pushed a gate closed, that was "good-natured" and occurred after someone said something about cattle getting out.
Mr Howard said the receivers had since sold the lands and the owner of the lands, Eugene McDermott, had this week purged his contempt of court orders and apologised. Mr Gilroy was taking "a very different attitude", he said.
Mr Justice Ryan told Mr Gilroy court orders must be obeyed and enforced.
The court had to decide whether Mr Gilroy had acted in contempt and, if so, the appropriate punishment and the court's approach was often affected by the person's attitude, including, for example, if there was "contrition".
Given the dispute between the sides, the judge said there must be a full hearing of all the evidence and he fixed that for January 21.
The 120 acres, excluding the family home of Mr McDermott, were sold last month by the joint receivers appointed by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation in late 2011 arising from default on a €814,000 debt secured on the lands.
The receivers alleged Mr Gilroy and Charles Allen were among about eight men using Mr McDermott's house on August 28 as a base to encroach on the lands under the receivers' control and that Mr Allen told them the lands were now controlled by him under a "trust".
Earliern this month, Mr Gilroy was arrested by gardai at his home in Navan, Co Meath, on foot of a warrant issued to the receivers and brought before Mr Justice Ryan to answer the contempt claims who adjourned the matter to yesterday. A warrant for the arrest of Mr Allen to answer claims of contempt against him remains unexecuted.
The stud farm was previously at the centre of a complex legal battle involving Mr McDermott and financial institutions. Bank of Scotland last July secured a €7m judgment against Mr McDermott at the Commercial Court.