Sunday 20 October 2019

Couple who epitomised the Celtic Tiger mingled with rich and famous

Gorse Hill
Gorse Hill
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

AT HOME in Ireland their neighbour was Bono, while on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, it was the President of the United States who lived next door.

Solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his psychologist wife, Mary Pat, together with their four adult children - Blaise, Blake, Bruce and Alexandra - had what is often called "a lifestyle".

They are now an unlikely cause célèbre, doggedly supported by the self-styled Land League - despite being, perhaps, the most unlikely victims ever to be served with an eviction notice.

And they are garnering little sympathy from the public at large, despite the new Land League's protestations that an eviction from lofty Vico Road equates to the same as an eviction in Finglas.

The O'Donnells' master bedroom in Gorse Hill at 600 square feet, is the size of an entire shoebox city apartment - though with sweeping views across Killiney Bay.

They have an outdoor pool, a tennis court, a sauna, snooker room and pool room - all the trappings of wealth.

When they first moved in, in the early Noughties, they threw a house-warming party that one impressed guest described as "extravagant beyond imagination", with gold-embossed invitations, caviar, and champagne for 150 guests.

By 2005, they had well and truly made the house a home, decorating it with a well-chosen collection of art and antiques valued by Deloitte at €7.5m.

All these glittering possessions, along with the house, were merely the rightful gongs for a solicitor whose career seemed to strike not one false note. In 2007, he ranked 91 on the Rich List of Ireland's wealthiest, worth a reported €144m.

Brian O'Donnell was one of only a handful of Irish lawyers included in the International Who's Who of mergers and acquisitions. He was once lauded for his pro bono work on the Blaise Gallagher case, where a quadriplegic boy received what was then the largest damages ever achieved in Ireland.

After graduating from NUI Galway in 1976 with an LLB, he went on to work with one of Ireland's most prestigious law firms, William Fry, serving as managing partner until 1999. He then set up his own practice.

At NUI Galway he met Mary Patricia O'Beirne, a fellow student from a wealthy Galway family, and they married.

She was glamorous and notoriously private - until recently no known picture had ever been taken of her.

Blake O'Donnell is a solicitor, representing the family in court. At a hearing in 2012, he was described as a student, along with sister Alexandra, while Blaise was described as a jobseeker, and Bruce as a non-practising solicitor. They told the court then that they did not have the resources to fight a case in the big business division of the High Court.

In 2012, the High Court in London heard Alexandra "had the misfortune to experience serious illness" in earlier years.

Their glamorous forays to the Four Courts, in stylish black ensembles, have done little to secure recognition they were the beneficial owners of Gorse Hill.

Irish Independent

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