A British life peer in dispute with a trust over his occupation of one of Ireland’s finest Georgian mansions is engaged in an “orchestrated and calculated strategy” to delay completion of the sale of the property, the Commercial Court has been told.
Lord George Magan, who lives in Kensington, London, and once owned Georgian Castletown Cox and its 513-acre estate in Kilkenny, is due in Kilkenny Circuit Court on Tuesday to argue that he is entitled to continue as a tenant of the mansion.
Last November, the High Court granted summary judgment for some €571,000 against Lord Magan which arose from a dispute about rent arrears for Castletown Cox, which he says is his family’s secondary home.
The judgment was sought by a trust set up by Lord Magan called the Castletown Foundation. The foundation, managed by Jersey-based Yew Tree Trustees, was established to benefit two of his children, Edward Magan and Henrietta Black.
On the basis of this arrangement, Lord Magan continued to be a tenant of the property. However, over the years, the trust said it had come under financial strain due to €14.5 million in borrowings secured on the property along with the cost of maintaining it.
The trust decided to sell the property and has agreed a price of €19 million with an unidentified buyer.
Lord Magan counterclaimed that the foundation had taken unlawful possession of the house
The foundation took over the house in May last year in what the court heard was a “dawn raid” when no member of the Magan family was present.
The foundation also brought High Court proceedings claiming Lord Magan was trying to delay the sale. Lord Magan counterclaimed that the foundation had taken unlawful possession of the house and he was entitled to a continued tenancy under the Landlord and Tenant Act.
Mr Justice Robert Haughton, who granted judgment against Lord Magan last November, put a stay on the foundation pursuing certain other reliefs against him pending determination of the landlord and tenant matter by the Circuit Court.
On Monday, the judge granted lawyers for Lord Magan permission to cease representing him.
Rossa Fanning SC, for the foundation, said he was concerned this was part of an orchestrated and calculated strategy of continuing delay. This was the second firm of solicitors which had sought to cease representing him, he said.
Mr Fanning said he was asking Mr Justice Haughton to lift the stay on the foundation pursuing other reliefs against Lord Magan so that the sale of the estate could be completed.
The judge said he could not do so until Lord Magan has been given an opportunity to appear and state whether he was getting new solicitors or representing himself.
He adjourned the matter for a week when the court will also be updated about what occurred in Kilkenny Circuit Court.