By Ann O'Loughlin
A brother of bankrupt developer Sean Dunne has been awarded €10,000 by the High Court over intimidation of him and his family by the "debt collection agency" run by the criminal Martin "the Viper" Foley.
Seamus Dunne, of Castlecomer Road, Kilkenny, was entitled to the damages against a man who engaged the services of Foley in an attempt to recover a €320,000 land deal debt, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said.
Larry McDonald, of Glenbrook, Ballyroan, Co Laois, "took the law into his own hands and employed a so called debt collection agency operated by a notorious criminal, Martin 'the Viper' Foley, to harass and intimidate Mr Dunne in particular into discharging the debt", the judge said.
However, Mr Justice Noonan dismissed the main part of the case brought by Mr Dunne and another businessman, Tom O'Driscoll, Ard Sidhe, Cashel Road, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, in which they claimed they were entitled to €3m damages against Mr McDonald, his wife Deirdre McDonald and Barney McDonald.
Mr Dunne and Mr O'Driscoll claimed that as a result of a breach of an agreement whereby the McDonald's would vacate their family home six months after a deal to buy the house and adjoining land, they had lost out on an opportunity to sell onto a developer for €3m.
Mr Justice Noonan said their claim lacked any credibility but Mr Dunne was entitled to €10,000 for the intimidation by Foley's agency.
In 2009, the McDonalds won a High Court judgment against the two businessmen for €320,000.
This debt arose out of a 2006 land deal in which Mr Dunne and Mr O'Driscoll agreed to buy Mr McDonald's home at Ballyroan along with 26 acres beside it for €2.5m.
The two businessmen had a few weeks previously concluded a €1.3m deal in which Mr McDonald and his family agreed to sell 15 acres of land in Ballyroan, which were zoned for development, for €1.3m
As part of the deal, Mr O'Driscoll and Mr Dunne agreed that Rolan Homes, the developer the men were selling the land to, would build three houses there for Mr McDonald.
Later, it was agreed between the parties that the three houses obligation would be bought out for €350,000. Only €30,000, in March 2008, was paid to enable Mr McDonald complete a new house he was having built.
Mr Justice Noonan said it would appear matters rested there for a further year with no further steps taken to ensure the McDonald's vacated their house.
In 2009, Mr McDonald employed Foley's agency and on a number of occasions between March and July that year, Mr Dunne was visited at his home, and at his wholesale electrical business in Kilkenny, by a woman and two men in a van with large red letters on its side including the word "Viper".
By then, the judge said, the property market collapsed and Ulster Bank, which had provided funding to the two businessmen for the acquisition of the Ballyroan lands, appointed a receiver over the property in 2010. The house had been vacated at that stage.
Mr Justice Noonan said all the evidence in the case pointed to the fact that the McDonalds remained in occupation of the house "on an agreed basis after the expiry of the initial six-month period". This was in circumstances where the remaining €320,000 (in lieu of the three houses) had not been paid.
It was surprising the claim advanced at the hearing, of the allegedly lost contract to sell to Rolan Homes, was not once mentioned in the pleadings of the case which came before the court in 2012.
"What remains therefore is a bare assertion that a breach of contract occurred", he said.
He dismissed the main case. Mr Dunne, who would not be "unduly sensitive to intimidatory behaviour", had said he felt intimidated and threatened by the Foley agency and his wife suffered emotional distress after she was accosted at the family home by the agency, the judge said.