Receivers for BofI fail to take McElhinneys of Athboy

Attempt frustrated after standoff with store manager Neal Sweeney

McElhinneys store in Athboy, Co Meath, the owners of  which are resisting receivers. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

McElhinneys store in Athboy, Co Meath, the owners of which are resisting receivers. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Receivers acting on behalf of Bank of Ireland failed in an attempt to secure the premises of McElhinneys of Athboy, Co Meath, at the weekend after a standoff with the store’s general manager Neal Sweeney and his supporters.

Mr Sweeney, grandson of the founding owner, posted on the store’s Facebook page that the receiver’s agents had forcibly entered the premises on Friday evening while he was present, but that he had made the decision to occupy the premises.

It is understood that several gardaí attended the scene on Saturday and left shortly afterwards.

Mr Sweeney and his supporters retook the store and remained in control of the premises as of Sunday evening.

It is understood that the receiver’s move on Friday evening was prompted by the appointment of a liquidator to the trading company last week.

Bank of Ireland declined to comment.

A receiver, Barry Forrest, was appointed in 2013, after the owners of the department store and two other Athboy properties – McElhinney’s Bridal Shop and a property known as Guinans – failed to repay loans of €2.34 million. The properties had been put up as security for the loans.

Directors

The receiver has been engaged in legal battle with the directors of McElhinney Fashions Limited ever since.

In September 2015, the High Court adjourned an application by Mr Forrest seeking to have members of the Sweeney family committed to prison for an alleged failure to comply with an agreement entered into the previous October.

The court heard this agreement involved the handing over of the three properties sought by the bank, but that Mr Forrest was unable to secure peaceful possession of the department store and had therefore sought the committals.

McElhinneys describe Friday’s entry as an “illegal trespass”. The store, which is thought to employ more than 20 people, used its Facebook page to thank “neighbours, friends and associates that helped to have justice restored”.

Separately, a businessman named Dr Michael Grimes released a statement claiming that his UK-registered company, also named McElhinney Fashions Limited, was the sole owner and sole operator of the store since last September.

Dr Grimes said he had no connection to the company in liquidation.