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Vincent visits Gorse Hill on a day of drama and farce for the O'Donnells


John Martin from the New Land League speaking to media at the gates of Gorse Hill in Killiney, Co Dublin

John Martin from the New Land League speaking to media at the gates of Gorse Hill in Killiney, Co Dublin

John Martin from the New Land League speaking to media at the gates of Gorse Hill in Killiney, Co Dublin

It was a day of high drama, and farce, as the once high-flying couple Brian and Mary Pat O'Donnell continued their sit-in for a second day.

They made an unlikely pair of squatters - he a former solicitor turned property investor with the one-time Midas touch, she a publicity-shy psychiatrist.

And indeed the location of their protest - a lavish Italianate mansion on Killiney's Vico Road with Bono as a neighbour - is not your run-of-the-mill grotty bedsit.

Last night the couple remained inside their Gorse Hill home, protected from the prying eyes of the amassed media outside.

However, the O'Donnells hadn't reckoned on the maverick TV3 presenter Vincent Browne throwing a spanner in the works.

Earlier in the day the journalist staged a one-man home invasion.

As members of the self-styled New Land League addressed reporters outside, alleging there was a "sinister side" to the "pursuit" of the O'Donnells, Browne stalked past them and through the open gate.

The O'Donnells' defenders spluttered their fury, accusing Browne of trespassing. He retorted: "This is bank property."

He then turned to his colleagues in the fourth estate and, in his inimitable badgering style, told them to join him before calling them "wimps".

The insult had the desired effect because, uncertainly, they soon followed him down the gravel driveway, casting unsure glances behind them.

"You won't be allowed at the press conference," railed league spokesman Jerry Beades, to which Browne replied: "I don't want to go to your press conference... Goodbye, Jerry."

Having entered the inner sanctum, Browne proceeded to the front door and knocked.

But there was no answer, save for a dog barking from inside.

With the O'Donnells disinclined to invite anyone inside for a cuppa, there was nothing much to do but mill around outside, check out the open-air swimming pool and take in the breath-taking views of Killiney Bay from the terrace.

After half-an-hour of not very much happening - and with no sign of the O'Donnells throwing an exclusive comment out the window - the media trooped back up the driveway, but found the electric gate was firmly closed. Trapped.

The New Land League, who kept the gardaí busy calling them several times yesterday, made a quick call to the house and the gates trundled open. Phew.

And so the media returned to their positions on the narrow road outside and busied themselves with tweeting photographs of the luxury they had witnessed from within.

Speaking at a press conference in Buswells later, Mr Beades said: "Vincent Browne, by the way, didn't help the situation today out at Gorse Hill.

"As most of you know he trespassed on property, he barged in, he thought it was perfectly lawful to go walk around looking in windows and I though it was in poor taste."

The previous evening, men acting for the receiver of Gorse Hill nailed a trespass notice to the gate. The couple had until 4pm yesterday to vacate the property. There was a lull in proceedings as everyone counted down to the 4pm deadline.

However, four o'clock came and went with no sign of Brian, Mary Pat or their suitcases.

Then, 15 minutes later, ears pricked up at the sound of the gate rolling back. John Martin, another member of the New Land League, emerged. He said the couple were feeling "hemmed in".

When asked if the league was ending their blockade of Gorse Hill - two cars that had been parked just inside the gate blocking the entrance had been moved aside - he confirmed they were. However, he said members remained at the property.

"The family, at this stage, feel enclosed the way they are... barricaded by the media.

"We thought some relief was in order to be able to concentrate on what position they may be in tomorrow," he said. Asked if the O'Donnells would be attending court today, Mr Martin said: "I don't know."

As he was speaking, some members of the public who had gathered outside saw their opportunity to do a Vinnie and wandered over the threshold and onto the driveway - much to the amusement of the resident Husky, which padded back and forth not knowing what was going on.

As Mr Martin attempted to regain control of the situation, one dapper man dressed in Cheltenham-style with a brown trilby and matching overcoat, who would only identify himself as 'Nicholas' said: "The gate was open and I walked in."

John Martin whipped out his mobile: "You can speak to the guards when they come, my friend."

Never a quiet moment for the gardaí.

They duly arrived, and left.

The blockade was now back on, said the league, and the cars would be parked across the entrance again.

For the locals in Killiney the commotion was both a draw and an irritation. The Vico Road, narrow at the best of times, was now clogged by vans and parked cars.

Lines of cars snaked past Gorse Hill, curious drivers rolling down their windows for a better look. Others just glared at the assembled media as they attempted to inch their hulking SUVs up the road.

One woman, out enjoying her evening stroll, stopped to remark about the "farce" taking place on her doorstep. She didn't know the O'Donnells, she said, and thought the rows of parked cars had been for a funeral.

With a shrug of her shoulders she continued on her way.

Irish Independent