Sunday 20 October 2019

Couple who own boutique Dublin hotel 'distorted court results in media campaign'

Pat Halpin and Ann Keane proprietors of the Aberdeen Lodge hotel in Sandymount Photo: Tony Gavin
Pat Halpin and Ann Keane proprietors of the Aberdeen Lodge hotel in Sandymount Photo: Tony Gavin

Tim Healy

A couple opposing efforts to repossess their boutique hotel over a €25m debt have "seriously and wrongly distorted" the result of a seven year legal battle over their situation, the Commercial Court heard.

Patrick Halpin and his partner Ann Keane, owners of the "Aberdeen Lodge"  hotel in Sandymount, Dublin, had engaged in a high profile media campaign distorting the results of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions which found they should hand over the premises to a receiver, Mr Justice David Barniville was told. 

They have also paid just €100,000 off their debt despite making some €4m from their hotel business in the last seven years, the court was also told.

On Monday, the judge granted receiver Paul McCann permission to bring an application for the attachment and committal to prison of the couple following an attempt last month by Mr McCann's agents to take possession of the property.   The application will be heard in four weeks time.

Cian Ferriter SC, for the receiver, said they were ordered by the Supreme Court in March 2016 to leave the property.  Their overall debt then stood at nearly €24m.

The couple then brought proceedings over Mr McCann's appointment which was originally made in 2012 by IBRC before the debt was sold to Goldman Sachs investment banker affiliate Kenmare Property Finance.

In July 2016, the High Court dismissed their challenge as a "collateral attack" on the Supreme Court possession decision.

An application to commit them to prison for breach of the court order was brought but was adjourned generally pending an appeal by them in relation to the receiver case.  As part of that adjournment, they agreed to pay €5,000 per month off the debt.

The Court of Appeal granted a stay on the repossession pending determination of their application to the Supreme Court for a further appeal, Mr Ferriter said.

On Feb 15 last, the Supreme Court rejected their application.  That gave the receiver the immediate right to take possession but he wrote to the couple and gave them a further six weeks to voluntarily leave, Mr Ferriter said.

On March 28, the receiver's agents arrived at the hotel to be met with "a barrage of media" with Ms Keane and Mr Halpin making it clear they would not leave, counsel said.

They then "embarked on a high profile media campaign and appeared live on the Miriam O'Callaghan show in which they have seriously an wrongly distorted what happened in the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal", counsel said.

It is now some seven years since the receiver first took legal action against them during which they "have generated over €4m and paid just €100,000", he said.   They have also had accommodation for themselves and their two children in the hotel.

They are clearly experienced hoteliers and clearly are able to make a living, he said.

The receiver had no desire to have them committed to prison but is hoping that by the time the attachment and committal application is heard that "sense may prevail".

Ms Keane said she had only received the papers from the receiver over the Easter break and had not been able to get legal representation because "everyone has been on holiday till this morning".

She asked for more time than the three-to-four weeks sought by the receiver.

Mr Justice Barniville said he was prepared to give her four weeks and said any replying affidavit to the receiver's application should be in the week before.

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