Court of Appeal refuses O’Donnells’ appeal of decision not to overturn bankruptcy

High Court had earlier dismissed case brought by Brian and Mary Patricia O’Donnell

Retired solicitor Brian O’Donnell and his wife have lost their appeal against the High Court’s dismissal of their bid to have their bankruptcy overturned.

In the High Court last April, Ms Justice Caroline Costello ruled Brian and Dr Mary Patricia O'Donnell had not advanced any grounds or any new evidence as a basis for an annulment of the bankruptcy obtained against them by Bank of Ireland in 2013.

The three-judge Court of Appeal, in a judgment on Thursday, agreed and also upheld the High Court’s finding the couple had sought to advance arguments which they were either in a position to make or, with reasonable diligence, could have made as early as March 2011.

Those arguments included the couple's claim they had dealt with Bank of Ireland Private Banking (BofIPB), rather than Bank of Ireland,  over their debts of €71.5 million. They also claimed BofIPB was not a licensed bank.



Mr O’Donnell claimed they only “twigged” in 2014 that all their dealings were with BofIPB but the appeal court agreed with the High Court the issue as to whether or not BofIPB was licensed to carry on business as a bank was irrelevant. It also agreed the status of the bank could not be said to have been concealed, much less fraudulently concealed, by the bank.

The appeal court also ruled the High Court had correctly refused Mr O’Donnell’s application to strike out, on hearsay and other grounds,  evidence of some bank officials.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan, giving the judgment of the court with which Mr Justice Sean Ryan and Mr Justice Michael Peart agreed, concluded the couple had advanced no grounds on which the appeal court could find the High Court judge erred in her decision. The couple had not disputed they had received the monies at issue, she also noted.

There must be compelling reasons to undo the machinery of bankruptcy and no such reasons were advanced, she held.

Mr O’Donnell was not in court and the judges agreed to an application by his son Blake O’Donnell to adjourn cost issues to January.

Mark Sanfey SC, for Bank of Ireland, said he would be seeking costs.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times