Judge prevents receivers taking possession of Kilmacthomas Workhouse

Catherine Barry wins injunction to stay in landmark property on Waterford Greenway

The Kilmacthomas Workhouse now  houses the Kilmacthomas Business Centre, near Kilmacthomas village.

The Kilmacthomas Workhouse now houses the Kilmacthomas Business Centre, near Kilmacthomas village.

 

The High Court has granted an injunction preventing fund-appointed receivers taking possession of a landmark property along the Waterford Greenway.

Ennis Property Finance DAC appointed receivers over the property formerly known as the Kilmacthomas Workhouse, now also housing the Kilmacthomas Business Centre, near Kilmacthomas village. It is a well-known stop for cyclists and walkers using the greenway.

Ms Justice Carmel Stewart, in a judgment published this week, found that Catherine Barry, who says she lives in a cottage adjoining the property, was entitled to an injunction preventing the receivers taking possession, trespassing on, or selling the property pending further proceedings.

Ennis appointed receivers arising out of three loans made between 2006 and 2008 to Barry family companies by Bank of Scotland Ireland. The loans, including one for almost €465,000, were secured on the property.

Ms Barry provided guarantees on the loans which were later sold to Ennis. It sought immediate repayment last May and when that was not forthcoming, appointed receivers.

Ms Barry brought injunction proceedings seeking to stop them taking over the property. Among her claims were she had inherited her husband’s struggling business following his sudden death in 2000 and, given her lack of business acumen, placed increasing reliance on her son Niall in the running of the business.

Ms Justice Stewart said Niall had worked in the business for two years prior to his father’s death and was allegedly angry his father’s will had not properly provided for him. He allegedly threatened to leave the family business if his mother did not act as guarantor, the judge said.

While Ms Barry had significant reservations about her son borrowing such large sums of money, she said she executed the guarantees under duress and undue influence by her son given her reliance on him to run the business.

She had said she received no legal advice before doing so. She also claimed repayments on the largest loan were up to date and her involvement in them was not commercial but as a consumer, giving her protections under the Consumer Credit Act.

‘Driving force’

Donal O’Sullivan, a director of Ennis, disputed her “self-characterisation as a housewife with no business acumen”. Ms Barry was actually the driving force behind the family business, both before and after her husband’s death, he said.

Mr O’Sullivan also said there was a settlement agreement between two Barry companies and Ennis in which Ms Barry acknowledged her indebtedness and set out a new system of repayments which was not adhered to. Ms Barry denied she was involved in that agreement which was, she said, negotiated by Niall.

Granting the injunction, Ms Justice Stewart said while not making any findings of fact at this stage, she was satisfied Ms Barry had an arguable case she was acting under the influence of Niall at the time of the loan transactions. That finding was primarily based on the fact no evidence was provided to show she was a capable businesswoman at the time, the judge said.

If evidence were to come to hand to show she was “sufficiently proficient at that time”, the judge might reconsider that finding, particularly if it shows Ms Barry did not disclose relevant material during the injunction proceedings.

Ms Barry had “just barely discharged” the burden necessary to establish there was a serious issue to be tried, the judge said. The judge was satisfied the application of standard principles for granting injunctions to the facts of this case favoured Ms Barry.