MEP’s 'threat to burn Clontarf home' if bank forced a sale
MEP Mick Wallace rejected a bank's proposal that he sell his Dublin home and live in Wexford - even though he was representing the county in the Dáil.
Dublin Circuit Civil Court also heard that Mr Wallace (64) threatened to burn down his Clontarf home if AIB Mortgage Bank sought to repossess it.
Details of the exchanges emerged at a hearing yesterday where the bank secured a possession order for the property over an unpaid debt of €955,000.
A note of a meeting between Mr Wallace and bank officials in 2015 recorded that the then TD for Wexford rejected a proposal to live in the county.
The proposal involved him selling the Clontarf property, with the proceeds going to AIB, and an option to retain another house he owned in Youngstown, Co Wexford, as his principal private residence.
But the Independents 4 Change politician was recorded as confirming "he would not be moving back to Wexford to live" as he had been living in Dublin for 25 years and his family, job and lifestyle were all in the capital.
The court also heard Mr Wallace had an emotional attachment to the Clontarf property.
According to an affidavit filed by AIB official Sean O'Carroll, the builder-turned-politician told him the bank "would have to take him out in a box" and that "he would burn it if he had to and would go to jail if necessary".
The comments were said to have been made after the bank told him it was not able to give him a further loan to buy an apartment in Temple Bar.
AIB was prepared to give him a loan, ranging between €200,000 and €250,000, only if he sold the Clontarf house first.
The Ireland South MEP was not present in court for the hearing, but in an affidavit he confirmed he said he "would have to be dragged" out of the house.
"My language was emotive. However, it has to be understood in the context of my upset and sense of betrayal at what was being done to me by a State-owned bank," he said.
Mr Wallace claimed AIB had been "threatening and cajoling" him and "seeking to deny" his rights.
However, in granting the possession order, Judge Jacqueline Linnane said the MEP was clearly in default and, in her view, the bank had been "most patient" with him.
She also found points made by Mr Wallace's legal team on his behalf had "no merit".
The judge put a three-month stay on the order after hearing Mr Wallace needed time to get his affairs in order.
She had been initially reluctant to grant a stay, saying the MEP surely had somewhere else to live.
Referring to a recent bare-chested photograph Mr Wallace posted on social media, the judge said: "Last time there was a photograph of him sitting on a balcony in the shade somewhere in Europe. It looked a lot sunnier than Clontarf."
But after rising briefly to allow Mr Wallace's legal team to contact him by phone, the judge agreed to the stay after hearing the MEP was prepared to co-operate and hand back the keys by March 12.
The possession case revolved around a €825,000 loan Mr Wallace received in respect of the Clontarf property, which he bought in 2004.
Mr Wallace and his businesses subsequently got into significant financial difficulties following a slump in the building sector and he was adjudicated bankrupt with debts of €30m in 2016.
In 2015 he came under pressure from AIB to deal with his debts on the Clontarf house and buy-to-let properties that he owned in Co Wexford.
The court heard he had given personal guarantees of €7.85m to AIB and at a previous hearing it emerged monthly interest payments due on the Clontarf loan were €2,500.
Mr Wallace's counsel, Jack Tchrakian BL, said it was his client's case that he reached a verbal agreement with Mr O'Carroll in 2013 to make repayments of €2,000 a month on the Clontarf debt.
But this was denied by Mr O'Carroll, who said in an affidavit that any agreement would have had to have been documented and passed by AIB's credit committee.
When the bank indicated it was pursuing the loan in March 2015, Mr Wallace stopped making the repayments, the court heard.
But he began making the €2,000-a-month repayments again in April 2016 after a fresh proposal was put to the bank by his accountant. The bank did not respond to this proposal.
However, Mr Tchrakian argued the bank had accepted it through its conduct, as it had continued to receive the payments of €2,000 per month from Mr Wallace.
He said the bank could not portray Mr Wallace as a non-co-operating debtor.
Mr Tchrakian said the bank had failed to engage in a proper mortgage arrears resolution process with his client and for this reason it could not seek to enforce the mortgage.
He also said Mr Wallace had tried to reach an arrangement with the bank, submitting six separate written offers.
However, AIB's counsel, Brian Conroy BL, said his clients were entitled to seek possession. He insisted Mr Wallace had been a non-cooperative borrower who had unilaterally changed the amount he was repaying and then decided not to make any repayments for 13 months.
Mr Conroy also said silence on the part of the bank in relation to proposals from Mr Wallace's accountant did not imply consent under contract law.
The court heard the arrears on the loan now stood at €111,258.
Judge Linnane granted the possession order and awarded the bank its legal costs. She said the attitude adopted by Mr Wallace had served to increase the costs in the case.