Thursday 21 November 2019

Human approach to those making honest efforts

JEROME REILLY

It was back in 2007 when the first avalanche of repossessions started to come before the courts that Judge Elizabeth Dunne first warned mortgage companies that she would not evict people from their homes where the arrears were small and where borrowers, facing difficult personal problems such as bereavement or marital breakdown, were making strenuous efforts to repay their debt.

In many respects, her warning went unheeded and prime and sub-prime mortgage providers continued to inundate the courts with applications.

True to her word, the former Circuit Court judge, now a High Court judge ensconced in the Commercial Court, proved herself to be deeply reluctant to allow repossession of a family home where honest efforts have been made to reschedule debt.

But that human approach to repossession orders, that most traumatic byproduct of the Celtic Tiger collapse, should not mask the tough and formidable presence that Ms Dunne has brought to the Commercial Court in some of the highest profile cases before that forum in recent years.

Judge Dunne, a mother of two, was appointed directly to the Circuit Court in 1996 even though she was not yet a senior counsel. She was appointed to the High Court in 2004 and is already being tipped to be appointed, sooner rather than later, to the Supreme Court.

It was Judge Dunne who declared Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely bankrupt in Ireland, rejecting arguments by lawyers for Mr McFeely that his centre of main business interests was the UK.

"I am not impressed by the level of information provided by Mr McFeely," she said.

And it was Judge Dunne who uttered the damning assessment of the conduct of Sean Quinn, his son Sean Quinn junior and nephew Peter Quinn.

Finding Sean Quinn senior, Sean Quinn junior and Peter Quinn guilty of contempt in the High Court for trying to put assets beyond the reach of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), the successor to Anglo Irish Bank, she said that Peter Quinn was "evasive, less than forthright, obstructive, unco-operative and at times untruthful."

She said Sean Quinn senior was also "evasive and unco-operative" and that some of his evidence was "not credible".

Of Sean Quinn Junior she also came to the conclusion that he was not telling the truth in his evidence.

The judge said: "In the course of his evidence, Sean Quinn spoke of the Quinn Group and its importance as an employer of some 7,000 people. He spoke of the 'honourable and respectable' way in which the business was run.

"I wish I could say the same about the manner in which the respondents have dealt with the adverse circumstances in which they now find themselves," was her curt summary.

Sunday Independent

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