Thursday 22 August 2019

Bank delayed family's farm eviction to ease tension after Garda request

Stock photo
Stock photo
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The bank at the centre of the Co Roscommon eviction controversy delayed moves to reassert its right to the property following a request from gardaí, the High Court has heard.

The revelation came as lawyers for KBC Bank opened injunction proceedings aimed at forcing the McGann family to vacate their farm.

Officers asked the bank to hold off on the legal action for a number of months until a Garda investigation had progressed sufficiently and tensions on the ground had eased.

Siblings Anthony, David and Geraldine McGann were evicted from their farmhouse in Falsk, near Strokestown, on December 11 last year on foot of a possession order in favour of KBC. A video of the eviction posted online showed distressing scenes as occupants were forced from the property.

But in the early hours of December 16, a gang of masked men attacked the eight security personnel who were guarding it. Three of the guards were hospitalised, a dog had to be put down and several vehicles were burnt out as a result of the incident.

In the aftermath of the attack, the siblings returned to the farmhouse and have remained there since.

Rossa Fanning SC, for KBC, said the injunction now being sought by the bank was "about the integrity of the rule of law".

He told Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds the bank secured a High Court possession order in 2012.

This arose out of borrowings by Anthony McGann, the registered owner of the property.

The barrister said the farmer owed KBC €431,000, of which €192,000 was arrears. There was no pattern of repayment, he said. The last payment made to the bank was one of €500 in February 2014.

Explaining why KBC had not sought the injunction sooner, he said gardaí had specifically requested the bank delay making the application.

Mr Fanning said while KBC was not bound by the request, it agreed to do so as it "did not want to inflame the situation on the ground".

The bank was eventually informed by a Garda superintendent on March 15 that he no longer saw any impediment to the bank seeking the orders.

Mr Fanning said the bank regarded the case as an important one and wanted its application heard "in early course". "We say that this case is really about the integrity of the rule of law," he said.

From the bank's point of view, it was important its entitlements to the property and the meaning and effect of the possession order be vindicated by the court.

None of the siblings was present in court and only two of them, David and Geraldine McGann, are legally represented in the proceedings.

Their counsel, Eanna Mulloy SC, said his side would be filing a substantial affidavit replying to KBC's motion within a week.

The judge adjourned the proceedings for a fortnight.

The court also heard David McGann has issued proceedings in which he is challenging the lawfulness of the execution of the possession order. "If my client is right, the warrant was not properly executed," said Mr Mulloy.

There is no suggestion the siblings were involved in any way in the attack on the security guards.

After the incident, they released a statement saying they wished to make it clear they condemn all forms of violence and wanted to see the rule of law upheld.

Irish Independent

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