Saturday 20 April 2019

'Deluded' O'Donnells owe €71m but want to keep mansion

'Deluded' O'Donnells pin hopes on 11th-hour High Court bid to overturn repossession

Mark O'Regan and Sam Griffin

A family want to be allowed continue living in a palatial mansion despite being €71.5m in debt.

The O’Donnells were described as “deluded” in court after seeking an injunction to prevent Bank of Ireland seizing control of Gorse Hill, a hilltop mansion in Killiney, south Dublin.

The O'Donnell home in Killiney, Co Dublin
The O'Donnell home in Killiney, Co Dublin
Chalet Hermine in Courcheval, France
The interior of the Barton Street property in Westminster London owned by the O'Donnells features a swimming pool

Solicitor and property developer Brian O’Donnell barricaded himself inside the house, once valued at €30m, with the help of the New Land League anti-repossession movement.

Mr O’Donnell, along with his wife Mary Patricia and children Blaise, Blake, Bruce and Alexandra, had been ordered to vacate the property by noon yesterday.

However, Mr O’Donnell remained inside last night, as a last-minute High Court bid was mounted to stop the repossession. The application was made by their eldest son, Blake.

Addressing Mr Justice Brian McGovern, he claimed “new facts” had come to light and said his parents had a “right of residence” at the property. The judge said he would wait until today before delivering a ruling.

Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary
Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary
The O'Donnell siblings Blake, Alexandra and Blaise
The Fatburen building in Stockholm

Mr O’Donnell is a former managing partner in Dublin law firm William Fry. He and his wife, a psychiatrist, became involved in the property business over 20 years ago.

Jerry Beades, spokesperson for the New Land League, said: “The issues are the same whether you owe €50,000 or €5m.”

At the height of their property empire, the O'Donnells had interests in a number of London properties around the financial hub of Canary Wharf, as well as Stockholm and Washington DC.

However, the financial downturn seriously hit the value of these investments.

The former high-profile legal eagle invited members of the Land League anti-repossession movement into the sprawling mansion, once valued at €30m.

Yesterday's application to retain the family home was made by their eldest son, Blake O'Donnell.

He told the court his parents were now occupying the property - but that he and his siblings had vacated the house.

He also said his father was not pulling the strings, as had been suggested in the court hearing.

Addressing Mr Justice Brian McGovern, he claimed "new facts" have come to light and said his parents have a "right of residence" at the property.

"We're saying that the judgement of the High Court was obtained by perjured evidence and fraud."

He said they were "simply seeking" that the order to vacate the property be overturned.

He called for the "cost order to be overturned", adding that they should receive damages "for going through a massive exercise with the bank in the High Court and the Supreme Court".

He told the court that his parents borrowed €70m from Bank of Ireland private banking limited in 2006 and 2007. But he claimed there was a "deception in terms of what was being told to my parents."

The court heard the siblings are seeking an interlocutory injunction - a court order to compel or prevent a party from doing certain acts pending the final determination of the case. "I'm asking the court to restrain the receiver from interfering with the property, and trying to sell it."

He said the siblings' "net point" was that there was "untruthful evidence" given in the High Court, designed to "perpetrate a fraud on us."

"They were trying to fraudulently mislead us.

Lawyers for the bank said that they understand that a "group of protesters from the so-called Land League has erected a barricade".

Referring to the family's latest legal bid as "deluded", barrister Cian Ferriter, for the bank, said the case was a "wholly improper attempt to reopen issues which have been definitely adjudicated upon by this court and, on appeal, by the Supreme Court."

A letter, purportedly signed by Brian O'Donnell and dated February 27, was read out in court by Mr Ferriter.

"My wife and I have a right of residency at Gorse Hill, which must be terminated by writing with at least two years' notice," he said.

Referring to Bank of Ireland-appointed receiver Tom Kavanagh, the correspondence outlined that should he "trespass and harass us at our residence" on Monday, March 2, "we will call the police."

Mr Ferriter added: "Mr and Mrs O'Donnell, who up until a few weeks ago were asserting that they were permanently resident in London, are now apparently moving back into the house."

Justice McGovern then interjected, saying: "This is like Lanigan's Ball."

Mr Ferriter said the plaintiff's case revealed a "very disturbing attitude" to respect for the "court's orders ... for the fundamentals of the administration of justice.

"That somehow they're above the law, they can play around with the court's orders and processes."

Irish Independent

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