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O'Donnells ordered to leave mansion

Published 15/04/2015

Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia have lost their appeal
Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia have lost their appeal

A bankrupt lawyer-turned-property speculator has been given two weeks to leave his former mansion after losing his appeal against repossession.

Brian O'Donnell and his psychiatrist wife Mary Patricia have until the end of the month at the luxury house known as Gorse Hill, at Killiney, overlooking Dublin Bay, to consider a Supreme Court challenge against the Court of Appeal ruling.

The three judge court dismissed their appeal against earlier High Court orders that they were trespassing on the property which is owned through a complex legal deal by an Isle of Man company, Vico Ltd.

Their children had been forced to leave the property earlier this year as part of a lengthy legal battle with Bank of Ireland, which is owed around 71.5 million euro (£52 million) in disputed debts secured against the house.

Judge Mary Finlay Geoghegan said the appeal demonstrated the very difficult situation a family can find itself in when securing bank loans on their home.

The ordeal has understandably caused great emotional upset and distress for the O'Donnells, she said in a 45-page judgement.

Barrister Cian Ferriter SC, for Bank of Ireland, had argued they should leave by tomorrow morning at the very latest as they had only moved back into the house in February from their permanent home in England.

The O'Donnells could remain on for two to three months if they were allowed time to pursue a Supreme Court challenge, he told the court.

Mr O'Donnell, an experienced former commercial lawyer who represented himself, aided by his son Blake, said he "didn't know what the urgency was" as there would be no irreparable damage to the bank if they stayed on.

But after rising briefly to consider the arguments, Judge Finlay Geoghegan, along with two other judges, gave the couple until noon on April 29 to leave the house.

The Court of Appeal rejected five challenges to High Court repossession and trespass orders handed down on March 12.

On the High Court judge Brian McGovern's refusal to recuse himself - or step down from the case - over alleged complex financial arrangements with Bank of Ireland, mainly through his wife, it was ruled there was no evidence for the claims.

Ms Finlay Geoghegan said a "reasonable person" with full knowledge of all the facts would not believe the O'Donnells didn't have a fair hearing before the impartial judge.

She also rejected an appeal against the High Court's refusal to adjourn the case and upheld a decision for the proceedings to be heard in the commercial court.

Whilst the case undoubtedly relates to the home of their family it was given as security for commercial borrowings, the judge said.

The High Court refusal to allow Mr O'Donnell cross-examine two witnesses from the Bank of Ireland and the receiver was also upheld.

Judge Finlay Geoghegan said the O'Donnells agreed a settlement deal with Bank of Ireland on March 2011, in which they consented to leave Gorse Hill if the lender called in the house as security on their multi-million euro borrowings.

While they now allege the deal was fraudulently obtained, it presently remains valid and binding, she added.

"Importantly, whilst Gorse Hill is a family home in the sense that when it was acquired it was planned to be the home for the appellants and their children, nevertheless, it has not been the home in which the appellants have resided since the end of 2011," she said.

She added: "The appellants are not without a home if the injunction is granted. They have a home in England."

The judge said the receiver will be able to rent out Gorse Hill as further legal proceedings continue and make some of the money on it owed to Bank of Ireland.

Mr O'Donnell, who permanently lives at East Haxted, Haxted Road, Edenbridge, Kent, 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 euro (£800 million) at one stage.

In previous hearings, he said he had paid over 700 million euro (£506 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, such as Gortdrishagh House, a lakeside country estate.

His Sanctuary House building in London fetched 32 million euro (£23 million) which was paid back to their lenders, he told the High Court.

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