Friday 18 October 2019

Ritz-Carlton granted trespass order in feud over luxury suite

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Powerscourt, Co Wicklow
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Powerscourt, Co Wicklow

Tom Lyons

THE international owners of the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel at Powerscourt, Co Wicklow, obtained a High Court order last week barring the owner of one of its suites from occupying it.

In affidavits lodged in the High Court last week it was claimed that businessman Eugene O'Connor padlocked his suite and occupied it along with others.

The hearing was taken on an ex-parte (or one-sided) basis – where the court heard only from the Ritz-Carlton and not from Mr O'Connor, who was not in court.

The new owners of the hotel, Sugarloaf Ventures Ltd, went to court to get an order barring the businessman from occupying his spectacular bedroom suite.

Mr O'Connor was allegedly protesting against the new owners, who have reduced rents paid to suite owners by 50 per cent since acquiring the hotel out of liquidation from the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

The move saved 300 jobs – but suite owners, who paid up to €1m each per suite, were asked to accept a 50 per cent cut in rent for their rooms or have their leases repudiated.

Pat Kenny, the RTE broadcaster, Denis Desmond, the music promoter, and Paul Begley, the vegetable importer jailed for a tax scam related to importing garlic, are among the 200 other private investors in the hotel.

In an affidavit, Damien O'Riordan, general manager of the Ritz, claimed Mr O'Connor had first installed a new lock on his suite last Monday. The hotel had replaced the lock and decided to take no further action beyond warning Mr O'Connor.

At 6.25pm the following day, Mr O'Riordan said he was contacted by John Anders, director of loss prevention at the hotel, who said that "padlocks had been placed on the door of the suite".

According to his affidavit: "Mr Anders advised me that the door had signs of forced entry and damage apparently arising as a result of the forcible replacement of the locks."

At 6.40pm, Mr O'Riordan said he met Mr O'Connor beside the lift.

"Mr O'Connor warned me that I 'was not to break into his room again', and that the suite was his 'private property'." At 9pm, according to the affidavit, Mr O'Connor told a staff member to tell Mr O'Riordan that "his wife would be taking up residency in room 214 (being the suite) and under no circumstances was she to be disturbed".

Mr O'Riordan said the incident had caused a "disturbance" in the Ritz, causing them to seek legal redress. Kevin McGillycuddy, the head of Sugarloaf Ventures, said in a separate affidavit that the affair was "causing distress to staff, a nuisance at the hotel and noise and disruption to hotel customers".

Ms Justice Laffoy granted a restraining order that Mr O'Connor and "all persons acting in concert" stop entering the suite until May 29, when the case will come back to the High Court and Mr O'Connor will have an opportunity to give his side of the dispute.

She said the order restrained him from "occupying, breaking into or trespassing upon suite no 25 at the Ritz Carlton", and "from interfering with, damaging, removing or altering any aspect or property of the Ritz Carlton".

Mr O'Connor could not be contacted for comment.

Irish Independent

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