Sunday 25 February 2018

Family urges Law Society to make 'small financial gesture'

Josephine O'Donnell whose house was signed into Thomas Byrne's name, delaying the sale of the home
Josephine O'Donnell whose house was signed into Thomas Byrne's name, delaying the sale of the home

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

A FAMILY who lost up to €250,000 on the value of their dead mum's home after former solicitor Thomas Byrne transferred her house into his name using a forged signature, has urged the Law Society to offer "even a small" financial gesture to his victims.

Aideen Costigan, whose mother Josephine O'Donnell (pictured) died in 2006, said a five-year legal action to remove Byrne's name from the deeds of her late mother's home resulted in a €250,000 loss for her and her siblings.

Paul Costigan, Mrs Costigan's husband, said that the couple felt the Law Society, the ruling body for solicitors, had "washed their hands of" families affected by Byrne's colossal fraud.

"They (the society) should offer some financial gesture," said Mr Costigan. "There is a responsibility there, I just feel that they have washed their hands of this."

Mrs O'Donnell taught Byrne piano when he was a teenager and the elderly woman regarded him as a "trusted" friend.

Mrs Costigan and her husband had an offer for Mrs O'Donnell's house in September 2007 for €410,000, just weeks before the Law Society shut Byrne's practice down.

In November 2007, another buyer offered €440,000 for the home but the property could not be sold because the title deeds were in Byrne's name.

The house was finally sold last January for €190,000, a loss of €250,000 from its peak value after Byrne's name had been removed from the title deeds.

The house was tied up in the courts for several years and by the time Mrs Costigan was able to sell it was worth less than half that value.

The Law Society did cover the Costigans' legal fees for the deed-transfer action.

But the family say they have been told they cannot be compensated for the consequential loss as a result of the five-year delay.

"I don't buy that our loss was consequential," said Mr Costigan.

"We had another buyer and the only reason that sale did not go through was because our name wasn't on it," he added.

Irish Independent

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