Sunday 21 January 2018

Creche owner alleges business partner 'tried to push her out of new venture - and locked her inside building'

High Court Dublin
High Court Dublin

Aodhan O'Faolain.

A creche owner has told the High Court that her business partner tried to push her out of a new venture they had hoped to establish together.

Michelle Keegan, who runs a successful creche in Swords, said she entered into partnership with Audrey Ayers with a view to setting up a similar childcare facility in Portland Street North in central Dublin.

She told the court a rift developed between them, culminating in an incident last month when Ayers tried to lock her into the creche from the outside.

Ms Keegan, of Holywell Green, Swords, Co Dublin, brought High Court proceedings Tuesday against Ms Ayers of Abbeyvale Close, Swords Manor, seeking to restrain her from attending at the proposed crèche.

Mr Justice Anthony Barr granted the injunction and also restrained Ayers from carrying out any renovation works at the site. Ayers was also restrained from using promotional material which Keegan claimed was her intellectual property.

Keegan, who represented herself in court, said in a sworn statement that she had been approached by Ayers about going into business together and setting up a new creche.  A site had been identified at Bakers Yard, Portland Street North, Dublin 1.

She said that after obtaining a loan it had been hoped to open the business by the end of June last but significant works had needed to be carried out and a contractor, who Keegan claimed had links to Ms Ayers's partner, went on site to do the work.

Ms Keegan, who took the proceedings ex parte in the absence of Ms Ayers, said she felt abandoned by Ayers who had spent a lengthy part of the summer on holidays in Lanzarote while she had been left to carry out extensive paper work as well as supervise construction.

She told Judge Barr that it had been hoped to open the crèche early September but this had proved impossible due to, what she described as, poor workmanship by the contractor.

Keegan claimed in court that walls had not been properly constructed, doors had not been hung properly, floor slabs on corridors were unstable and the plumbing leaked.  She had removed the contractor in late August while electrical works continued by an electrician who, Keegan alleged, was a cousin of Ms Ayers.

Judge Barr heard that Ms Ayers was livid with Ms Keegan’s decisions and relations between the two deteriorated.  When locks on doors were changed Ms Keegan had not been given keys despite asking Ayers for copies.

On one occasion Ayers had asked her to leave the site and when she had refused to go Ayers had tried to lock her in.  Keegan claimed this incident had been filmed by Ayers’ partner on a mobile phone and she had felt intimidated by it.

Ms Keegan told the court she has no access to the building and despite peace talks there had been no offer by Ayers to buy out her half share in the venture. She claimed she was being pushed out of the business by Ayers and others and she feared for her reputation.

She said she was now suffering from stress and feared she would be made liable for loans obtained to establish the creche.  She also feared if Ayers was left in charge there would be a risk to the fabric and integrity of the building in which the creche is located.

Granting Ms Keegan the injunctions, Judge Barr said it appeared from the evidence put before the court that the relationship  between the business partners had "irrevocably broken down." 

He adjourned the case to Thursday's sitting of the High Court.

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