McFeely's UK bankruptcy order cancelled as Irish bid not revealed
PRIORY Hall builder Tom McFeely could be bankrupted in Ireland within weeks after a British judge yesterday overturned his bankruptcy in the UK.
The controversial builder's bankruptcy order was cancelled in London because Mr McFeely did not reveal to the UK courts that he was already involved in bankruptcy proceedings in Ireland.
The British bankruptcy was overturned as a result of a challenge brought by Dubliner Theresa McGuinness of Rush, Co Dublin. She had previously sued to bankrupt the former Maze hunger striker here after winning a €100,000 award against him.
She took her original case against Mr McFeely's company, Coalport Ltd, after it emerged that a house she had bought from him in Balrothery, Dublin, had serious structural defects.
Next month the High Court in Dublin will hear the bankruptcy petition brought by Ms McGuinness.
If it is approved by the Irish courts, Mr McFeely could be put out of business for up to 12 years -- compared with just 12 months after a bankruptcy in the UK.
Yesterday, Judge Sandra Proudman said that Mr McFeely appeared to be shopping around for bankruptcy and questioned why he had not taken his chances in the Irish bankruptcy courts. She cancelled the bankruptcy order granted in Britain, leaving Mr McFeely in a legal grey area.
His bankruptcy in the UK will be reconsidered by a registrar in the UK High Court. But before that happens, he could be bankrupted in Ireland as the High Court in Dublin is set to hear the next part of Ms McGuinness's bid to bankrupt Mr McFeely here on July 23 next.
A number of Irish developers have sought to have bankruptcy declared in London as the regime is often perceived to be softer than in Ireland.
Mr McFeely, who spent 53 days on hunger strike in the Maze prison in 1980, and has a home address at Stratford in east London, said in a witness statement to the court that he is a British citizen and has been working exclusively in the UK since September 2009.
He said the last work he did in Ireland was the completion of a block of apartments in Dundalk in 2008.
He said that "as a British citizen" he objected to being forced into bankruptcy in a foreign jurisdiction -- in this case, Ireland.
"The Irish system of bankruptcy is punitive by nature. Until recently it was not possible to obtain a discharge, often for life," he said.
However, the judge said the UK registrar would not have made the bankruptcy order if it was aware that there was a question of where Mr McFeely's "centre of main interest" was and that bankruptcy proceedings had been issued in the Irish courts.
The judge said the issue "boils down" to Mr McFeely avoiding Irish bankruptcy by going through the UK.
A spokesman for the Priory Hall Residents Committee welcomed the decision but said residents were uncertain what "practical difference" it could make to their plight.