Wednesday 24 April 2019

O’Donnell family to discover tomorrow if court appeal successful

Mark O'Regan

The children of solicitor and property developer Brian O’Donnell will discover tomorrow if their eleventh-hour High Court hearing to retain their family home is successful.

They have sought an injunction to prevent a repossession order by Bank of Ireland on Gorse Hill, the family’s hilltop Killiney mansion.

However, Mr Justice Brian McGovern has reserved his decision until tomorrowin relation to the injunction application

"I'm not going to give my decision now. I'm going to reserve my decision, and I'm going to put the matter in for two o'clock tomorrow afternoon. I may or may not give my decision then," he said.

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

Mr O'Donnell had effectively  barricaded himself inside the house, assisted by members of the New Land League.

Referring to the family's latest legal bid as “deluded”, Barrister Cian Ferriter says it appears that the receiver is going to meet resistance.

The New Land League has said that the Brian O'Donnell repossession case represents all that is wrong with the Irish justice system.

Today's application was made by the family's 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 said  he had not lived in Gorse Hill for two or three years and had no keys to the property.

He was not aware members of a group calling themselves the 'Land League' barricading the property.

Blake O'Donnell also said  his father was not pulling the strings as had been suggested in the court hearing.

It was utter nonsense to suggest that he had orchestrated things in the background

Cian Ferriter appearing for the Bank of Ireland  told the court the  injunction application was a repackaging of arguments from cases held previously.

He said it was a last ditch attempt by the family to buy themselves some further time.

He said there was a very disturbing undertone to the application.

The siblings and parents had demonstrated a lack of proper respect for the administration of justice.

The house - Gorse Hill - is located not far from the home of U2 singer Bono - on Dublin's Vico Road and enjoys a panoramic vista of Dublin Bay.

Mr O’Donnell and his wife, psychologist Dr Mary Patricia O’Donnell, were being pursued for a debt of €71.5m by Bank of Ireland, when they began court proceedings to repossess their home.

Mr and Mrs O'Donnell insisted their children have legal entitlement to the house.

Last month the children - Blaise, Blake, Bruce and Alexandra were given until today to leave the property overlooking Killiney Bay.

The O'Donnells were among the most high-profile couples during the Celtic Tiger property boom.

Their property empire was once estimated to be worth one billion euro.

However, the couple were adjudicated bankrupt by the High Court in August 2013.

Bank of Ireland had applied to have them declared bankrupt after they had failed to satisfy a judgement for €71.57m.

This was obtained against them in December 2011 arising out of failure to repay a number of property related loans.

It was proposed the house would then  be taken over by a bank-appointed receiver.

The dwelling was originally acquired by Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell, in the late 1990s for €1.4m.

At the height of the property boom its value soared to €30m - its current value is estimated to be between €6m and €7m.

Vacant possession was required by February 1 following a court hearing in December which rejected an appeal by the O'Donnells against repossession.

However, the children continued living in the premises and then extended the O'Donnells' time to leave the house to today, March 2.

The Supreme Court have already confirmed Mr O’Donnell and his wife  as bankrupts, after they failed  to overturn a bankruptcy ruling, relating to their  Bank of Ireland debt.

They were first declared bankrupt in 2013 by Judge Peter Charleton in the High Court, who ruled they had boarded a ferry to the UK in 2011 'for the express purpose of avoiding debt'.

Judge Charleton also ruled that financial obligations cannot simply be 'wiped clean' by leaving the country.

The couple claimed they have reserved graves in Britain for when they die, and the Supreme Court was told they should not have been bankrupted in Ireland because they live in London.

However, when turning down the couple's bid to exit bankruptcy in Ireland, the Supreme Court's Ms Justice Mary Laffoy and four other judges ruled: 'The business activity in which [Mr and Mrs O'Donnell] were jointly involved is at the root of their insolvency.'

For over a year the O'Donnells have been strongly contesting the original bankruptcy ruling against them.

Brian O'Donnell was previously a high profile member of the legal profession, and a former managing partner in the Dublin solicitor's firm William Fry.

But after a three decade long legal career he decided to involve himself full-time in property investment.

His wife practised as a psychiatrist when the couple first seriously became involved in the property business over 20 years ago.

The couple had  interests in a number of London properties around the financial hub of Canary Wharf, as well as the  European headquarters of Credit Suisse at Columbus Courtyard.

The investments in these properties was reportedly £134m and £125m respectively.

The pair's property portfolio also included interests in Stockholm and Washington DC.

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

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