Business man apologises to court for remarks made about judge in e-mail

Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds

A 'business consultant' has unreservedly apologised before the President of the High Court for remarks made in an e-mail about another judge.

Eamonn O'Neill gave a sworn undertaking before Mr Justice Peter Kelly not to repeat "in public or in private" comments he made about Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds and her handling of a case in which he was a defendant.

Mr O'Neill was before the court for alleged criminal contempt for remarks he made in emails he sent last month to several parties, including the Gardaí, alleging that Judge Reynolds was involved in "a criminal conspiracy".

After apologising under oath to the court, Mr O'Neill said he had previously apologised to Ms Justice Reynolds about the emails.

Mr Justice Kelly, who accepted the sworn apology, also offered Mr O'Neill some "friendly advice".

The Judge told him not to make such allegations about other persons like the ones that were contained in the emails.

Mr Justice Kelly also told Mr O'Neill he was referring certain issues to the Law Society of Ireland.

Mr Justice Kelly said that it appeared from documents put before the court that Mr O'Neill had sought and received payment for advice he gave to parties involved in a case before the High Court.

It appeared to be the sort of advice the judge said that only a solicitor or barrister can give, he added.

It was accepted that Mr O'Neill, a businessman with over 30 years experience, was not a qualified lawyer.

The Judge said one of the parties in the case involving the receiver had said in a sworn affidavit Mr O'Neill had been paid money for his services.

The Judge said the court had also received a letter where another person, unconnected with the case involving the receiver, had claimed Mr O'Neill had been paid a substantial sum of money for similar advice.

There were matters the Law Society could look into, the Judge added.

Mr O'Neill, who told the court he acted as a business consultant said he had only two clients.

The action, which remains pending before the courts, involves a fund appointed receiver sought vacant possession of business premises in Co Waterford from parties after it was unable to gain access to the property.

Ms Justice Reynolds had made orders preventing Mr O'Neill acting as a legal advisor, known as a McKenzie friend, in court cases because he is "taking advantage of vulnerable litigants."

Ms Justice Reynolds made the order against Mr O'Neill in a case where the court had previously granted a fund appointed a receiver, Mr Ken Fennell possession of a commercial property in Co Waterford.

The action was brought against Paddy Early, Killea, Dunmore East, Co Waterford and Paul Kearney Islandtarsney, Fenor, Co Waterford, who are the owners of the property.

During the proceedings, the court heard Mr O'Neill with an address at The Quays, Waterford, had acted as a business consultant for the owners and CMD Early Dunmore East Ltd.

That company claimed it had an agreement with the owners to occupy the premises.

Mr Fennell, represented by Brian Conroy Bl, sought an order for vacant possession after it claimed it was unable to take charge or access the property, and that the defendants were trespassers.

After finding the defendants had no defence to the receivers claim the Judge granted the receiver an order for possession but put a stay on the order to allow the occupants time to find new premises.

The Judge also directed Mr Early and Mr Kearney to swear an affidavit setting out what they had paid Mr O'Neill for his advice, which they agreed to do.

Mr Fennell claimed Mr Early and Mr Kearney were advanced some €2.29m by Ulster Bank in 2008, for which the property was put up as security.

The loan fell into arrears in 2011 which was acquired by Promontoria Aran Ltd acquired in 2015.

Mr Fennell was appointed as receiver over the property in 2016.

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