Gorse Hill couple can stay at the mansion – for the next few days at least

NewsBy Sunday World
Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia appear at court
Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia appear at court

A bankrupt lawyer-turned-property speculator fighting eviction will have to wait until next week to hear whether he can remain at his former mansion that is at the centre of a repossession saga.

The Court of Appeal granted a further stay - or postponement - on a trespass order against Brian O'Donnell and his psychiatrist wife Mary Patricia at the luxury house known as Gorse Hill, Killiney, overlooking Dublin Bay.

In his latest battle to stay on at the coastal pile, Mr O'Donnell has challenged the validity of the appointment of receiver Tom Kavanagh.

He argued the legal documents appointing him were not properly sealed as required under the law.

Judge Mary Finlay Geoghegan said the three-judge court would have to see the original documents as they have been "squarely challenged" in the latest turn to the twisting legal fight between the O'Donnells and Bank of Ireland.

The Court of Appeal will interrupt another case next Tuesday for 10 minutes to briefly hear the challenge.

Judge Finlay Geoghegan said the court was very anxious to finalise the case and was aiming to deliver judgment before the end of next week.

In the meantime, she granted a further stay until next Tuesday on the trespass order that was nailed to the gates of Gorse Hill.

Barrister Cian Ferriter, for Bank of Ireland, has disputed that a seal is required on the documents, which he said were signed by an authorised officer of the lender, Nicola Coyle.

His legal team have been ordered to have the originals before the court and copies sent to Mr O'Donnell by 11am on Monday, before the brief hearing the following afternoon.

Gorse Hill is owned by a company called Vico Ltd.

In a complex arrangement, the Isle of Man-registered company's shareholding is owned by a discretionary trust set up by Mr and Mrs O'Donnell in favour of their children, who were ordered to leave the house earlier this year.

The O'Donnells had consented in an agreement with Bank of Ireland four years ago to vacate the property if the lender sought it as security on the pair's €71.5 debts, but now dispute that deal.

During his closing arguments against the appeal on the trespass order, Mr Ferriter said Bank of Ireland was potentially losing €12,000 a month which it could charge for renting out the property, while the O'Donnells remain on.

The couple have made wild allegations of criminality and fraud against the bank, and future legal proceedings would take some time, he said.

In this event, the lender stands to lose out financially if they are allowed to stay on at the mansion, he argued.

Because the O'Donnells are bankrupt they would not be in a position to pay any damages if the courts found against them, Mr Ferriter said.

Furthermore, they had offered no evidence as to how they could maintain the house or insure it in the meantime, the court was told.

It was clear the lender owns the property under the terms of the mortgages and the O'Donnells consented to provide full vacant possession of property in the event of the bank seeking its security, he said.

Mr O'Donnell has told the court their agreement was with a Bank of Ireland subsidiary, Bank of Ireland Private Banking, which he says is not licensed to operate as a bank in Ireland.

But Mr Ferriter said the claim "flies in the face of the solemn agreement" between the pair and the lender.

There was no credible evidence the O'Donnells could point out that showed their right of residence, which at any rate would have been given up by a settlement agreement with the bank, he said.

"They have no arguable right to reside because they have agreed to vacate," he added.

The first time the pair had asserted this right was after their children were ordered to vacate the house, as they want to remain on rent-free as bankrupts at the bank's expense, the barrister argued.

Mr Ferriter said only Vico Ltd could grant a right to reside and there was no evidence that it did.

Mr O'Donnell permanently lives at East Haxted, Haxted Road, Edenbridge, Kent - but argues he and his wife have had a "right of residence" at Gorse Hill since October 2000.

The ex-solicitor became a major player in UK commercial property, with an empire in the City of London, Dublin, Stockholm and Washington believed to be worth €1.1 billion at one stage.

In previous hearings, he said he had paid over €700 million back to banks worldwide.

He had sold 11 properties in Ireland, including houses on Merrion Square in Dublin and on Lough Corrib, in the west of Ireland, and places such as Gortdrishagh House, a lakeside country estate.

His Sanctuary House building in London fetched €32 million euro which was paid back to their lenders, he told the High Court.

The case continues.