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Lawyer drops mansion keys in at AGM

Published 29/04/2015

Brian O'Donnell lost his appeal against the repossession of his former mansion
Brian O'Donnell lost his appeal against the repossession of his former mansion

A lawyer-turned-property speculator tossed the keys to his former seaside mansion at a top banker before being evicted from the home.

Bankrupt Brian O'Donnell turned up at the Bank of Ireland AGM in Dublin where he dropped the bunch on a desk in front of chief executive Richie Boucher as a repossession order was enforced.

On his way into the meeting in UCD, Mr O'Donnell said he hoped to be back in the Gorse Hill mansion in Killiney despite yesterday losing the latest in a long line of legal battles to keep the home.

"We are extremely disappointed in relation to the decision of the Supreme Court yesterday," he said.

When asked if he would ever be back in Gorse Hill he said: "Who knows. We certainly hope to be, at some point in the future."

In what has become known as the Battle of Gorse Hill, Bank of Ireland has fought the family to repossess the property over 71.5 million euro in disputed debts secured against the house.

A notice addressed to Bank of Ireland was posted outside the home after the family's departure, signed by Mr O'Donnell as secretary of Vico Limited, the Isle of Man company he states owns the house.

It read that the company does not consent to access to the mansion or repossession and objects to the appointment of a receiver.

"The keys and electronic fob are the property of the company," the letter said.

"Should you obtain the keys and electronic fobs of Gorse Hill you are to return them to the company's office.

"Should your clients access the property they will be trespassers."

The O'Donnells left the mansion before a midday deadline packing up cars and lorries late last night and this morning before arriving at the bank AGM.

A former commercial lawyer, Mr O'Donnell became a major player in the international property market, with an empire in the City of London, Dublin, Stockholm and Washington believed to be worth 1.1 billion euro at one stage.

Yesterday was the last-ditch attempt to get into court and fight Bank of Ireland - a move rejected by the Supreme Court.

Mr O'Donnell hit out at the procedure for judges to rule against the family's latest application and their refusal to allow them to appeal a decision upholding trespass orders on the home.

"This has never happened before but I believe it is the new rules of the Supreme Court and I think it is a very significant matter," he said.

Mr O'Donnell also bemoaned a reference to being in court 82 times and losing each case - a figure he claimed was "statistically impossible" and said he would take the fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

The O'Donnells' children were forced to leave earlier this year and the Court of Appeal said the couple flew in from their permanent home at East Haxted, Edenbridge in Kent, England, to occupy the house in February.

The court rejected five challenges to High Court repossession and trespass orders handed down on March 12 and ordered the pair to leave the house, where neighbours include Bono and Enya, by noon on April 29.

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

Members of the self-styled New Land League, who have supported the fight against repossession, were at the mansion last night and today up until gardai and the receivers arrived.

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