News Courts

Saturday 19 October 2019

Judge orders Brian O'Donnell's son to phone father and tell him to vacate mansion

Mark O'Regan and Emma Jane Hade

BRIAN O'Donnell's son has been instructed to telephone his parents to tell them to leave their hilltop mansion in Killiney.

The family - who sought to be allowed continue living in their palatial mansion despite being €71.5m in debt - have lost their bid to remain in the property.

A man arrives to nail documents to the front gate of Gorse Hill, a hilltop mansion in Killiney, Co. Dublin belonging to Brian O'Donnell and his wife. Photo: Damien Eagers
A man arrives to nail documents to the front gate of Gorse Hill, a hilltop mansion in Killiney, Co. Dublin belonging to Brian O'Donnell and his wife. Photo: Damien Eagers
A man arrives to nail documents to the front gate of Gorse Hill, a hilltop mansion in Killiney, Co. Dublin belonging to Brian O'Donnell and his wife. Photo: Damien Eagers
A man arrives to nail documents to the front gate of Gorse Hill, a hilltop mansion in Killiney, Co. Dublin belonging to Brian O'Donnell and his wife. Photo: Damien Eagers
The O'Donnell home in Killiney, Co Dublin
Brian O’Donnell and his wife Patricia O’Donnell have debts of more than €70m

Mr Justice Brian McGovern refused an injunction preventing Bank of Ireland seizing control of Gorse Hill, a hilltop mansion in Killiney, south Dublin.

Trespass proceedings have been lodged against Mr and Mrs O'Donnell, and the legal papers were delivered to the property this evening.

They should be "affixed" to the front gate if necessary, the court heard.

If the O’Donnells do not comply with this order by 4pm on Wednesday then the case will be heard by High Court on Thursday.

The O'Donnell siblings Blake, Alexandra and Blaise
The O'Donnell siblings Blake, Alexandra and Blaise

However, speaking at Gorse Hill this afternoon, John Martin from the Land League has said that the O'Donnell family will not be leaving their Killiney home. It is understood that they intend to remain there until at least Thursday.

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

Addressing Blake O'Donnell, the couple's eldest son, Justice McGovern told him to leave court to telephone his parents to inform them of the judgement.

Mr O'Donnell said he thought it was "ridiculous" that he was being asked to call them.

He then turned to barrister Cian Ferriter, for the bank, and said "if he [Mr Ferriter] wants to communicate with my parents, he should communicate directly with my parents...not make me go out to phone my parents."

Justice McGovern then warned Mr O'Donnell, saying: "We can do this the easy way, or make it more difficult."

"I would have thought that as a solicitor, at least in the courts of England and Wales, and an officer of the courts there, that you would be anxious to co-operate and  facilitate a court order.

"If you are unwilling to do so, then so be it, I will have to take other steps."

Despite his initial reservations, he then said he was "more than happy to assist the court."

"I am directing that you contact your parents by telephone to inform them of the making of this order," Justice McGovern said.

Following a brief recess during which time Mr O'Donnell phoned his parents, he returned to court and was asked by Justice McGovern whether they have agreed to vacate the property.

Mr O'Donnell replied: "They do not accept that the receiver has the right to the property."

"I'm sure you as a solicitor know, and I'm sure your father as a former solicitor knows the consequences of frustrating court orders," said Justice McGovern.

When asked if he would like to say anything else, he said: "I'd just like to say that we will be appealing."

The former high-profile legal eagle and property developer Brian O’Donnell has 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.

It is understood the parents remains in the property this afternoon.

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 last-minute High Court bid was mounted by the family to stop the repossession. Yesterday's application to retain the family home was made by their eldest son, Blake O'Donnell.

Brian 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.

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.

He told the court he and his siblings have 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, Blake O’Donnell 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."

Read more: Judge in Brian O'Donnell case demands to know what is happening at palatial mansion

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.”

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.”

Tonight, the leader of the New Land League, Jerry Beades, has called upon the Taoiseach or the Justice Minister to intervene in the case of solicitor Brian O'Donnell.

He was speaking to the media as he collected the trespass proceedings, which had been nailed to the gates of Mr O'Donnell's Killiney property, shortly after 8pm this evening.

Mr Beades then made his way to the house, where the solicitor has been barricaded in since Monday, and the wooden gates to palatial mansion opened very briefly.

"Somebody in authority, either the Justice Minister or the Taoiseach, needs to intervene in this matter," he said.

When asked if the family will be appear in court on Thursday, as they have been ordered to, the Land League leader said:  "The position is that according to Judge McGovern, they were ordered to appear but we will have to see what is in the paper work."

"This is a brand new court application.  This is nothing connected with what was before the courts today.  No notice of motion was served on the O'Donnell's regarding these proceedings.

"Normally there is a proper timeframe for all of these proceedings to be dealt with and, this is more of the same that has gone on with the O'Donnells.

Speaking to after he left the property last night, Mr Beades said the family remain in the home and that they had examined the papers delivered to their home by the court. 

He said they are "physically drained" after the proceedings over the last number of days and indicated that they do not intend to vacate the property.

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