The battle of Gorse Hill trundles onward as O'Donnell granted extension

Gorse Hill
Gorse Hill

Solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his wife have been granted an extension of time by the Court of Appeal to challenge a High Court direction ordering them to vacate a property on Gorse Hill.

Mr O'Donnell and his wife, Mary Patricia, had been ordered on Thursday to vacate the property by Mr Justice Brian McGovern by 5pm on Friday evening.

President of the Court of Appeal Mr Justice Seán Ryan said the court would grant an extension of time to file an appeal against the order on the basis that papers would be filed by the close of business that day.

Counsel for the Bank of Ireland, Cian Ferriter SC, said the respondent was strongly opposed to any stay being granted.

He said there was no bona fide ground of appeal open to the O'Donnells and the balance of justice was against granting any extension of time.

Mr Ferriter said the O'Donnell's had orchestrated a blockade of the property and were acting in flagrant disregard for the rule of law.

The Supreme Court had ordered the children to vacate the property and just as they left, Mr and Mrs O'Donnell came back form their permanent home in England and moved in.

This was choreography, Mr Ferriter said. Just as the children left the house, Mr and Mrs O'Donnell remarkably sought to assert their right to reside and took up occupation of Gorse Hill.

Mr Ferriter said there was an agreement made in 2011 between the O'Donnells and the bank that they would immediately vacate the property if the bank exercised its right to security.

He said Mr O'Donnell signed up to the agreement with the benefit of legal advice and it remained binding.

That was vital to any question of whether there was a reasonable ground of appeal on Mr Justice McGovern's decision, counsel said.

The O'Donnell's had invited wholly unconnected third parties onto the property and they blockaded themselves into the Gorse Hill house, Mr Ferriter said.

While they claimed the third parties were there to prevent the media from accessing the house, the purpose was to prevent the receiver entering the property, he said.

There was a press release issued by Mr Beades in respect of the “so called Land League” Mr Ferriter said.

At that point, Mr Beades asked if he could address the court to which Mr Justice Ryan said “no”.

“Just a moment, let's keep some order here. Mr O'Donnell is representing himself (and) I take a very liberal view of who can sit with who. However there has to be a limit. Counsel is entitled to present his argument without interruption”.

Mr Ferriter continued. Not only did the defence invite third parties onto the premises, they made public statements about the case, he said.

Mr O'Donnell claimed he had no control over what they said having invited them onto the property. However he confirmed to the High Court that he did not tell them to desist from making statements, Mr Ferriter said.

Many of these statements had no regard to the rule of law or legal process, he said.

Mr O'Donnell had repeatedly told courts that their permanent home was in England, Mr Ferriter said.

They were adjudicated bankrupt in 2013 having failed to have themselves declared bankrupt in the UK. The UK courts held that their centre of main interest was not in UK but held that they were resident in England and Wales.

There was a Supreme Court appeal of their Irish bankruptcy, it was refused.

They now seek to contend that the loan and security documents were infirm in some shape or form claiming that the money was not lent by the Governor of the Bank of Ireland.

The courts had determined that Vico was the owner of Gorse Hill and upheld the loan and security documents, Mr Ferriter said.

He added that an undertaking as to damages had been given in the event that something were to occur to the property. It wasn't going to be sold between now and when the appeal against the order came on.

Mr O'Donnell said the bank had imposed impossible time limits on him and his wife, they were “bombarded” with paper and with unrealistic time limits.

He said they were given a little over 24 hours to vacate the property and take their belongings.

He asked the court to grant an order to extend necessary time to he and his wife to appeal the order to vacate.

Mr Justice Ryan put it to Mr O'Donnell that the bank was saying “you're not the owner of the premises and you came back from England”.

In response, Mr O'Donnell said they were challenging the essence of the claim that in 2011 they undertook to leave the house once the bank exercised its right to security.

“Do you live in the UK?” Mr Justice Ryan asked.

“We live in the UK. We have a permanent right of residence” in Gorse Hill, he claimed, and they had been forward and back to Ireland because of litigation.

He said they had 22 grounds of appeal. Because of the “salami type litigation” taken by Bank of Ireland, the legal issues had never been aired in the round.

He added that Mr Justice McGovern had been asked to rescue himself and there were three appeals in the Court of Appeal related to different matters.

Mr Justice Ryan said it was clear that matters were urgent but it was equally clear that matters had not been put on affidavit.

On the basis that Mr O'Donnell was in a position to present his case at 2pm on Thursday, the court granted the extension of time.

Mr Justice Ryan told Mr O'Donnell to have his submissions filed by the close of business.

Outside court Mr O'Donnell had no comment to make.

Jerry Beades, of the group styling itself as the New Land League, said Mr O'Donnell was extremely relieved. It took pressure "off the homefront" he said, in a situation where they had been given 36 hours to vacate their “home”.

More importantly the ruling which came form Mr Justice McGovern changed the dynamics for everyone facing eviction.

He said Mr O'Donnell will be retuning to Gorse Hill. They have a huge task ahead of them for next Thursday and had to prepare the paperwork by Monday.