‘We’ve paid banks €700m but Bank of Ireland persecuted us for 5 years’

Solicitor Brian O’Donnell claims he and his wife have paid €700m to banks worldwide but Bank of Ireland is the only one to have “persecuted us for five years”.

Mr O’Donnell made the claim in opposing the bank’s High Court application requiring him and his wife, Dr Mary Patrick O’Donnell, to peacefully give up possession of the former family home, Gorse Hill, Killiney, Dublin, to a receiver appointed by the bank over a €71.5m debt which was partly secured on the house.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Mr Justice Brian McGovern reserved his decision.

Mr O’Donnell, in opposing the bank’s application for an injunction, also said that while he knew businessman Jerry Beades, a member of the self-styled New Land League “as a friend”, he had not authorised any statements made by its members over the last few days.

He said a car parked in front of the gates of Gorse Hill was to prevent people rushing into the property, as had occurred on Wednesday.

He denied he was doing anything to frustrate receiver Tom Kavanagh, who was due to take possession of the house on Monday.

Mr O’Donnell was speaking in response to submissions by Cian Ferriter, counsel for the bank, who said the receiver was entitled to the injunction because the O’Donnells were simply engaged in “a tactical manoeuvre” to frustrate lawful efforts to take possession having “barricaded themselves and holding out a spurious right to remain there”.

Mr Ferriter said the O’Donnells’ true family home is in Surrey, England, where they have lived for the last three years, and from where they “flew in at the weekend” to move into Gorse Hill.

He added that, given that the “barricades had now been breached” and people were going into the property, his clients feared the security of the premises was in jeopardy. The granting of an injunction for possession was urgent for the upholding of the integrity of the administration of justice and the rule of law, said Mr Ferriter.

Mr O’Donnell, in response, denied the family had barricaded themselves in, but had to block the doors because on three occasions “there was a rush of people through the gates running around the garden”.

There were 65 members of the press outside and on one occasion, broadcaster Vincent Browne “led a posse through when the gates were opened”, he said.

Asked by the judge if he told Mr Beades to stop putting out press statements on his behalf, particularly as he must know as a solicitor how unwise this was while proceedings were under way, Mr O’Donnell replied: “No, I do not. I am not with every person who is a member of an organisation. They have a right to free speech and I have no control.”

The judge told him nobody has a right to try to influence court procedures or influence the rule of law. Mr O’Donnell replied: “I am not doing that.”

Mr O’Donnell said he and his wife were concerned about their safety, as a security company called AOC Security Solutions had been brought in by the receiver.

He wanted to cross-examine the receiver about that and also cross-examine a Bank of Ireland official who had sworn the main affidavit seeking the injunction against them.

The judge also reserved a decision in relation to those applications.

Earlier, Mr O’Donnell said the bank has known about the right of residency he and his wife had enjoyed at Gorse Hill for the last 15 years and particularly in the last three years since this litigation began, but it had not made any application to the court in relation to it.

The bank disputes that right of residency claim.

Mr O’Donnell said there was no urgency in granting possession as the O’Donnells’ occupation was to the benefit of all concerned.

He said said the bank has never told him how much of their debt has recovered from the sale of 11 properties in Ireland, the UK, and France, which were also part of the securities.

It was “absolute nonsense” to say there was an urgency about getting Gorse Hill,” said Mr O’Donnell. “We do not know how much they have got from the assets they have taken because they have not told us anything,” he said.

These assets include two properties in Galway and three buildings in Merrion Square, Dublin, from which there was an annual rent of between €600,000 and €700,000, he said. A premises known as the Sanctuary Building in London had also been sold for €32m.

“We have paid €700m back to banks worldwide and the only bank we have had a problem with is this bank which has persecuted us for five years,” he said.

Earlier, the judge also refused an application from Mr O’Donnell to recuse him from the case on grounds including that Mr Justice McGovern’s wife and her siblings had previously been involved in a court case involving the firm of the receiver in this case.


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