High Court prevents ‘business consultant’ acting as legal adviser

Judge bars Eamon O’Neill from acting as a ‘McKenzie friend’ to ‘vulnerable litigants’

Ms Justice  Reynolds said Eamon O’Neill  may apply to have the order barring him from advising litigants lifted when the matter returns before the court.

Ms Justice Reynolds said Eamon O’Neill may apply to have the order barring him from advising litigants lifted when the matter returns before the court.

 

A High Court judge has made an order preventing a “business consultant” acting as a legal adviser in court cases after saying he was “taking advantage of vulnerable litigants”.

The order was made by Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds on Thursday in respect of Eamon O’Neill.

The judge said he was now barred from acting as what is known as a “McKenzie friend” – persons who advise lay litigants participating in court proceedings.

The judge said, despite having no legal qualifications, Mr O’Neill had purported to give bad legal advice to defendants who were in a dispute with a receiver over a commercial property in Waterford and whom the court had made orders against.

Previously the judge described a letter sent to various parties, including the Garda, by Mr O’Neill as “scurrilous” and containing statements about what had occurred when the matter was before the court that were simply not true.

Last April, Mr O’Neill apologised to the court for what was contained in the letter.

The judge adjourned the case to Thursday when she directed Mr O’Neill to attend with a legal representative to answer what she said was his alleged contempt.

When the matter returned before the judge she said Mr O’Neill had failed to attend.

A new letter was handed into the court on Mr O’Neill’s behalf stating why he could not attend court which the judge said she did not accept.

“He thinks he is above the law,” the judge said, adding she was giving him one more chance and he would have to appear before the court next Thursday.

When the matter returns before the court, Mr O’Neill may apply to have the order barring him from advising litigants lifted, she said.

Ms Justice Reynolds made the order against Mr O’Neill in a case where the court had previously granted a fund-appointed receiver, Ken Fennell, possession of a commercial property in Co Waterford.

The action was brought against Paddy Early, Killea, Dunmore East, Co Waterford and Paul Kearney, Islandtarsney, Fenor, Co Waterford, who are the owners of the property.

During the proceedings, the court heard Mr O’Neill, with an address at The Quays, Waterford, had acted as a business consultant for the owners and CMD Early Dunmore East Ltd, which it was alleged had an agreement with the owners to occupy the premises.

Vacant possession order

Lawyers for Mr Fennell had sought a vacant possession order after it claimed it was unable to take charge or access the property, and that the defendants were trespassers.

After finding the defendants had no defence to the receiver’s claim, the judge granted the receiver an order for possession, but put a stay on the order to allow the occupants time to find a new premises.

On Thursday the judge agreed to extend the stay to allow the company, which very recently obtained the services of a solicitor, bring a motion seeking to have the possession order set aside.

The judge also directed Mr Early and Mr Kearney to swear an affidavit setting out what they had paid Mr O’Neill for his advice, which they agreed to do.

In his action Mr Fennell claimed that Mr Early and Mr Kearney were advanced some €2.29 million by Ulster Bank in 2008, for which the property was put up as security.

The loan fell into arrears in 2011 and Promontoria Aran Ltd acquired the loan in 2015. Mr Fennell was appointed as receiver over the property in 2016.