British life peer loses latest appeal over eviction from one of Ireland's finest mansions

George Magan was appealing a €571,000 judgment against him for rent arrears on the property
British life peer loses latest appeal over eviction from one of Ireland's finest mansions

George Magan (76) previously lost an appeal against a High Court decision ordering the forfeiture of Castletown House (pictured) in Kilkenny on the basis that he was not entitled to a new tenancy or to possession of the property under landlord and tenant laws. File picture

A British life peer who once owned and later rented one of Ireland's finest palladian mansions has lost an appeal against a €571,000 judgment against him for rent arrears on the property.

George Magan (76) previously lost an appeal against a High Court decision ordering the forfeiture of Castletown House in Kilkenny on the basis that he was not entitled to a new tenancy or to possession of the property under landlord and tenant laws.

He claimed the managers of a trust that he originally set up to manage the house and property had illegally forcibly entered the property and changed the locks in May 2018.

He separately appealed the rent arrears judgment and another part of the High Court finding that the courts were the correct forum for the tenancy matter and not the Residential Tenancies Board.

On Thursday, Mr Justice Brian Murray, on behalf of a three-judge Court of Appeal (CoA), dismissed his appeal saying the High Court was correct in relation to the judgment and in allowing the tenancy to be dealt with by the courts.

The CoA had allowed Edward Magan, on an exceptional basis, to present the appeal due to his father's ill health even though Edward is not a lawyer.

Edward, along with his sister Henrietta, were made beneficiaries by their father of the Jersey-registered Eaglehill Trust, whose trustee is Yew Yew Trustees Ltd and which is controlled by the Castletown Foundation, the professional managers of Castletown and its 513-acre estate.

New evidence

In presenting the appeal, Edward sought to admit new evidence which had not been presented in the High Court. He claimed the new evidence showed wrongdoing by the Castletown Foundation and was grounds for overturning the High Court decision.

Among his claims were that the whole eviction and sale of important works of arts and furniture in Castletown for €27m, which he said was at an undervalue, was done to entice the eventual purchaser of the house into a transaction which would generate the monies to refinance four separate related trusts. 

These trusts, he claimed, had been managed incompetently and negligently by people including a director of the Castletown Foundation. This and other evidence was not before the High Court which meant the eviction was manifestly unlawful, he claimed.

Judgment

Mr Justice Murray said the CoA could not embark on what was an entirely new hearing but was only required to decide whether the High Court decision, based on the evidence before it, had been correct.

The appeal court has the power to admit new evidence and arguments but it is within the constraints of the well-established principle of fairness to the other side which has incurred costs and expense in obtaining a lower court ruling. That party is entitled to expect that that order will stand unless shown to be erroneous having regard to the matters that were considered by the High Court judge, he said.

Much of the new evidence bore no relationship to the specific grounds on which the High Court judge decided the case, he said. However, there was nothing to stop the defendant from "agitating these issues" separately from this case.

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