Belfast Telegraph

Son calls mansion legal row father

A son was ordered by a judge to phone his solicitor father to tell him to leave his mansion on one of Ireland's most exclusive addresses.

Brian O'Donnell has been holed up in the palatial spread in Killiney, complete with tennis court overlooking Dublin bay, since Monday afternoon when receivers were due to repossess the property.

In the High Court, Judge Brian McGovern was told the gargoyle-effect letter box at the seven million euro (£5 million) coastal pile was no longer in use while Bank of Ireland, which has secured a 71 million euro (£52 million) judgement for the lawyer's debts, only had one email address for him.

Blake O'Donnell, also a solicitor, said in court that it was "ridiculous" that he had to phone his father and his psychiatrist mother Dr Mary Patricia, who remain in Gorse Hill, Vico Road, to tell them to get out.

"We can do this the easy way or make it more difficult," Judge McGovern told him.

A repossession notice will now be fixed to the gates of the luxury house, worth in the region of 34 million euro (£25 million) in the boom years but now valued at about a fifth of that.

It is due to be handed over after a four-year battle with Bank of Ireland over property investment debts and an unsuccessful attempt by the O'Donnells to be declared bankrupt in the UK.

Judge McGovern said the last-ditch attempt to stop the repossession and eviction was a device to frustrate previous orders of the courts, including the Supreme Court.

The O'Donnells' adult children - Alexandra, Blaise, Blake and Bruce - launched the legal challenge claiming that their parents had a right to residency in the mansion.

The judge also heard that up until a few weeks ago the O'Donnells were asserting that they were permanently resident in London, not Gorse Hill.

The property is in one of the most sought-after residential locations in Ireland, home to stars like Bono.

Nestled into the hillside overlooking Killiney beach, it would boast unspoilt views into Dublin Bay, south to Bray Head and east to Wales on a clear day.

Court hearings have been told how the O'Donnells bought it for 1.4 million euro (£1 million) in 1998 and over the years they undertook a complete renovation, including buying an adjacent piece of land to expand the mansion and grounds.

Following the phonecall to his parents, Mr O'Donnell junior revealed that his father insisted he was not party to the latest twist in the court battles and that he would not be leaving the property.

Cian Ferriter, senior counsel for Bank of Ireland, told the court separate trespass proceedings were being launched against the O'Donnells.

The barrister said Mr and Mrs O'Donnell had adopted a "shocking approach" which had been anticipated.

Judge McGovern gave the bank and receiver permission to fix a repossession notice to the gate and notify the O'Donnells by the intercom system "if there's one still working".

The case is due back before the High Court on Thursday.

Court hearings had previously heard claims that the property had been held in trust for the O'Donnell brothers and sisters, who vacated the home following the original order, and that it should not have been taken as security on other property loans.

Mr and Mrs O'Donnell had built a near billion euro portfolio of property investments since the early 2000s which turned sour due to the hundreds of millions they borrowed in the run-up to the global credit crunch.

The list included investments in Canary Wharf, Westminster, Stockholm, Washington DC and closer to home in Ireland.

The O'Donnells are being supported by members of the New Land League, a campaign group set up to oppose repossessions.

It takes its name from Michael Davitt's 19th-century fight against landlords in Ireland, many absentee, who refused to cut rents in the Great Famine and were evicting smallholders, known as cottiers, from homes and cottages.

Jerry Beades, a spokesman for the group and claiming to speak on behalf of the O'Donnells outside the Four Courts, said the case was no different to every other bank repossession in the country.

"The injunction proceedings have failed but the case still goes on," he said.

Mr Beades said there remained "huge irregularities" around the proceedings and the O'Donnells were entitled to due process.

"They will be putting up a vigorous defence to these proceedings," the campaigner said.

Mr Ferriter, for Bank of Ireland, said an affidavit on what was happening on the ground at Gorse Hill uncovered a "disturbing dimension" to the case, with evidence that the "self-styled" Land League were positioned inside the gates of the property.

The barrister said Mr O'Donnell was trying to style himself as a "tenant cottier" who cannot speak out for himself.

Blake O'Donnell, asked to clarify the situation at his former home, said he had spoken with his father briefly last night and he maintained he had invited a few of his friends around, who happened to be members of the Land League.

"They are friends of his," he said.

His father told him he had residency rights in the property stretching back 15 years, Mr O'Donnell junior added.

Mr Beades said the issues in the case are a matter of principle and the same for the O'Donnells in Killiney as a "Mrs Murphy in Tipperary".

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