Tuesday 22 October 2019

Bank in Co Roscommon farm eviction controversy says rule of law must be upheld

The scene at the residential farm at Falsk outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Photo: Brian Farrell
The scene at the residential farm at Falsk outside Strokestown, Co Roscommon. Photo: Brian Farrell
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A bank seeking an injunction to force three siblings to leave the farm at the centre of the Co Roscommon eviction controversy has said the case is “about the integrity of the rule of law”.

KBC Bank revealed in the High Court it delayed seeking the injunction for several months on the request of gardaí to allow tensions in the area to die down.

Efforts by the bank to secure possession of the farmhouse and surrounding lands, following the eviction of the McGann family last December, were thwarted by a vigilante attack on security guards.

In the aftermath of the attack, the McGann siblings - Anthony, David and Geraldine - returned to the farmhouse at Falsk, near Strokestown, and have remained there since.

Rossa Fanning SC, for KBC, said the bank secured a possession order for the property from the High Court 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.

A motion filed by the bank is seeking orders for the siblings to vacate the property.

Mr Fanning said the events leading up to the bank’s application were “the subject of some notoriety”.

We say that this case is really about the integrity of the rule of law Rossa Fanning SC, for KBC

As a result of the attack, three men were hospitalised, a dog had to be put down and several vehicles were set alight, he said.

Mr Fanning told Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds a criminal investigation was commenced by An Garda Síochána.

Explaining why KBC had not sought the orders sooner, he said gardaí had specifically requested the bank delay making the application until such time as their investigation had progressed sufficiently and tensions on the ground had eased.

He said the bank received a letter from a Garda superintendent on March 15, saying he no longer saw any impediment to the bank seeking the orders.

Mr Fanning said the bank regarded the case as an important one.

“We say that this case is really about the integrity of the rule of law,” he said.

Mr Fanning 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 granted in 2012 be vindicated by the court.

He said there would be no basis for the siblings to now seek the setting aside of the possession order and that the bank was anxious that the proceedings be dealt with “in early course”.

None of the siblings were present in court when the application was opened.

Anthony McGann is not legally represented in the case.

However, lawyers for his siblings David and Geraldine were present.

The court heard David McGann has issued separate proceedings in which he is challenging the lawfulness of the execution of the possession order.

Eanna Mulloy SC, for David McGann, said: “If my client is right, the warrant was not properly executed.”

He said his side would be filing a substantial affidavit replying the KBC’s motion within a week.

Ms Justice Reynolds adjourned the proceedings for a fortnight. 

The injunction application is being taken against the three siblings and “persons unknown” occupying the property.

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.

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