Bula mine co-founder fails in bankruptcy appeal

Michael Wymes declared bankrupt in 2018 over €4.8m bill from long-running legal action over failure of mine

Bula Mines co-founder and director Michael Wymes pictured at the High Court in 1999 during protracted litigation over the failure of the mine. Photograph: Marc O’Sullivan/Collins

A co-founder of the collapsed Bula mine in Co Meath has lost an appeal to allow him challenge a decision adjudicating him bankrupt over the non-payment of a €4.8 million bill for legal costs.

The High Court had granted a petition in March 2018 adjudicating Michael Wymes and another co-founder of Bula, Richard Wood, bankrupt.

The two, with Tom Roche senior, established Bula in 1971 to buy a zinc and lead mine near Navan but it collapsed with substantial debts some years later. The State was a shareholder in the company and protracted litigation followed.

In July 2003, costs of the litigation were taxed at €3.29 million and the bill, plus interest, amounted to some €4.8 million.


The minister for communications, energy and natural resources set about recovering that money and issued bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Wymes and Mr Wood. Further litigation followed over the bankruptcy summonses.

Ultimately, in March 2018, Mr Justice Charles Meenan ruled the minister was entitled to orders adjudicating both men bankrupt.

Neither man appealed that order but Mr Wymes, representing himself, later applied to the High Court seeking to dispute the validity of the adjudication against him.

After Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington refused his application in April 2019, he appealed. On Tuesday, a three judge Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

Giving the judgment, Ms Justice Mary Faherty, sitting with Ms Justice Isobel Kennedy and Ms Justice Úna Ní Raifeartaigh, said Ms Justice Pilkington had noted the validity of the bankruptcy petition had been comprehensively dealt with by Mr Justice Meenan. No new grounds had been advanced by Mr Wymes in this application.

Mr Wymes had failed to establish any errors in the High Court decision. Both Ms Justice Pilkington and Mr Justice Meenan had held that the requirement that an act of bankruptcy on which the petition was founded must have occurred within three months before the petition was presented had been met, she said.

Ms Justice Faherty also rejected arguments by Mr Wymes that the High Court erred in not considering some of his grounds more extensively – including that he should not have been adjudicated bankrupt because the litigation giving rise to the costs order was in the public interest.

That claim was rejected by Ms Justice Pilkington on the basis it had been addressed by Mr Justice Meenan and so could be re-litigated. The trial judge’s determination that this and other grounds raised by Mr Wymes were already decided did not mean Ms Justice Pilkington failed to address them or failed to have regard to the proper scope of section 16.2 of the Bankruptcy Act, Ms Justice Faherty said.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times