Wednesday 23 October 2019

Trust may be unable to keep up maintenance of Castletown Cox estate if dispute with British lord is not resolved, court hears

Lord Magan. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Images via Getty Images
Lord Magan. Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Images via Getty Images

Ralph Riegel

THE trust which operates the former Georgian estate of a British peer in Kilkenny may not be able to afford its €100,000 maintenance if a complex tenancy dispute with Lord Magan is not resolved.

The warning came as Kilkenny Circuit Court's Judge Alice Doyle said she would not confirm the allocation of three days for hearing the dispute next month amid indications the matter may not be able to proceed and that valuable court time could be wasted.

Lord Magan - who was not in court - has taken legal action against the Castletown Foundation, a trust which was set up to manage assets for his two children, Edward Magan and Henrietta Black.

The trust operates the 513 acre Castletown Cox estate in Kilkenny which was Lord Magan's secondary home.

Some 14 staff are employed at Castletown Cox which the foundation has proposed to sell off to achieve stability in its finances.

However, protracted legal proceedings have been underway between Lord Magan and the Castletown Foundation - with the peer seeking a new tenancy agreement.

Lord Magan, who was renting the property for €100,000 per year, is now disputing the termination of his tenancy.

His action has been taken under the Landlords & Tenants Act, 1980 and the Residential Tenancy Board (RTB).

The British peer is a successful London banker and a former Deputy Governor of the Bank of Ireland.

His father, Bill Magan, was born into the Anglo-Irish aristocracy in Westmeath and served during World War II in the Middle East with British intelligence. He later become a director of MI5.

His banker son fulfilled the family's quest to return to their Irish roots with the move to Castletown Cox.

Last year, the High Court granted summary judgement for almost €572,000 against the British life peer in a dispute over rent arrears involving Castletown Cox.

Proceedings are still underway before the High Court and the Circuit Court.

The foundation is operated by Jersey-based Yew Tree Trustees.

Lord Magan, who is primarily based in Kensington in London, initiated legal action to secure a new tenancy agreement in respect of Castletown Cox.

Stephen Dowling BL, for Castletown Foundation, instructed by A.L. Goodbody, said there was a complex background which involved proceedings in Ireland, Jersey and even Bermuda. He said the defendants wanted the matter dealt with as a matter of urgency.

"My application is for a (hearing) date - with those (June) dates or other dates," he said, adding  "It is very urgent for my client that this is progressed."

He said potentially lengthy delays in dealing with the matter could leave the trust "severely financially impacted."

One element is that maintenance of the Kilkenny estate, estimated at €100,000, may not be funded.

Mr Dowling said his client either wanted the tenancy issue heard before Kilkenny Circuit Court on the proposed dates already outlined, June 4-6, or for the matter returned to the Commercial Court as a priority issue.

Judge Doyle was told yesterday that Ronan Byrnes of G.J. Moloney, solicitors for Lord Magan, was applying to come off record in matters before both the High Court and Circuit Court. Mr Byrnes confirmed to the court that they had difficulty in receiving instructions over the matter.

Lord Magan had been notified by both email and registered post of his solicitors seeking to come off record.

Kilkenny solicitor, Joe Fitzpatrick of Smithwick and Company, said he had been approached by a third party to now act for Lord Magan.

However, he said he was not in a position to confirm going on record - and had not studied any of the legal briefs involved.

"I have not even met with the plaintiff," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Judge Doyle said that, against that background, she was concerned about setting aside the June 4-6 dates before Kilkenny Circuit Court lest the court time ultimately be wasted.

"It may well be a delaying tactic," she said.

"But it does not end your (defendant's) road. You have more than one road and it is open to you to choose.

"I cannot give those dates. It could be a waste of time."

Judge Doyle said circuit court resources were under significant pressure.

"We just don't have the judges to deal with emergency cases," she said.

"There are scarce (court) resources which need to be used (carefully)."

Castletown Foundation will now consider its position about applying for the matter to be referred back to the Commercial Court.

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